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Real Manning Nightmare For Patriots Comes From Eli, Not Peyton

Eli Face

Happy Halloween.

What's would be the scariest costume ever if you're a Patriots' fan?

How about the "Manning Face?"

The Eli Manning Face, that is. That Eli Manning face.

Tonight, you will hear little and not-so-little children knocking on your door asking "Trick or Treat?"

This week, the NFL treat has been the endless discussion of the "Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning" match-up. If you happened to be watching at the right times, NFL Network has aired just about every Tom Brady retrospective, highlight show and big-game compilation this week.

Always nice to re-live the good-old days from 2001, '03 and '04.

Brady and Manning have played each other 15 times, with Brady and the Patriots winning 10 of those games. Between Brady and Manning, they have four Super Bowl titles, eight Super Bowl appearances, 12 AFC title games, 118,306 regular-season passing yards and 890 career TDs.

Football candy for all. Full-size Snickers bars.

The NFL's two latest, greatest quarterbacks of all-time are a combined 75 years old. They will each be close to their primes on Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Peyton Manning has made a remarkable recovering from two neck surgeries that cost him a full-season in 2011. Brady has resurrected his career in a span of five weeks. This past Sunday he may have turned in the single most-impressive regular-season performance of his career. He went 30 for 35 against the Bears for 354 yards, 5 TDs and no interceptions. Of his 35 passes, 33 of them were either caught or dropped. Brady, the NFL's offensive player of the month for October, has put up 14 TDs in his past four games, without a pick.

Clearly, a treat for football fans everywhere outside of New York, Cincinnati, Buffalo or Chicago.

But what about the trick in this relationship? That's easy. Patriots Nation and those media members who purport to cover the team have rightfully obsessed over Tom vs. Peyton this week. There's another member of the Manning family who has given the Patriots unforgettable nightmares through the years.

That would be his little brother, Eli. The youngest of the three Manning brothers faced the Patriots in two Super Bowls. Twice, when it literally counted the most, Eli led his Giants to soul-crushing, game-winning touchdown drives. Twice, he completed passes that seemed nearly impossible still to this day.

And it was Eli who turned 19-0 into 18-1, with a huge assist from David Tyree, and a smaller one from Asante Samuel.

The Manning brothers have eliminated the Patriots from the playoffs in four consecutive meetings since January of 2007. Peyton did it in the 2006 and 2013 AFC title games. Eli did it in Super Bowls XLI and XLVI.

Which two losses were more excruciating or flat-out painful? Easy question, there.

Archie and Olivia Manning's decision to have three boys, instead of just one, has been a costly one for the Patriots. Tom Brady could have had six Super Bowl rings, instead of only three had Archie and Olivia stopped with Cooper. Probably more like five because beating Seattle this past February would have been unlikely, if not impossible. The Patriots would certainly have five trophies at their HQ had the Mannings "settled" after having Peyton. But like so many parents, they had room in their homes and heart for one more child.

Thus, we got Eli.

Super Bowls XLII and XLVI have done more damage to the Patriots' place in history, Brady's legacy, and the sports psyche of New England north and east of Waterbury, Conn., than any game ever engineered by Peyton Manning.

There is some perverse comfort in that fact.

The Patriots and their fans will never experience a loss more crushing, more depressing and more damaging than that 17-14 defeat in Glendale, Ariz., seven years ago next February. Losing to Giants a second time in the Super Bowl was one of those "been there, done that" experiences. Even the 46-10 loss to the Bears in Super Bowl XX was painless by the time it ended.

18-1 can still be traumatizing at any moment for some. It will never go away until the Patriots finish 19-0 in 2000-and-never.

Even if the Patriots lose on Sunday [for the record, I will pick them to win 28-24], there will be plenty of season ahead. New England will still have a solid shot at a first-round bye, assuming it can beat the Colts at Indianapolis in two weeks. Any potential loss here to Peyton will be far from fatal.

There is no football horror, no ghoulish gridiron scenario, no terrifying scoreboard outcome that Peyton Manning can deliver on Sunday that can come close to what his brother has already done to the Patriots. Even if these teams meet again in the playoffs, the Patriots are psychologically Peyton-proof because of the tricks pulled off by Eli.

Peyton Manning has produced as much humor as horror for the Patriots. Eli is a far different character. He the Patriots' Freddie Kruger, Michael Myers and the bad guy from "Saw," all rolled into one.

Scary stuff on Halloween, indeed.

The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Bill has written and reported for ESPN, CBSSports.Com and was a sports/deputy sports editor at several metro daily newspapers. Reach Bill on the OBF Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
OBF email Address
. Thanks always for reading.

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