Superbowl a super matchup of quarterbacks
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Peyton Manning has been through this once before and not that long ago.
He and his Indianapolis Colts are staying in the same hotel, in the same Super Bowl setting, as they did three years ago. They will practice on the same field. They will play the game in the same stadium where the Miami Dolphins usually play.
And once again, Manning and the Colts must put up with all-day rains.
"People ask does this give you an advantage staying at the same hotel, practicing at the same field," Manning said Monday at the Marriott Harbor Beach Hotel. "I don't think it does. I don't think staying at the same hotel helps you stop Drew Brees' offense or figure out where Darren Sharper is going to be."
The only difference is the Colts played a Chicago Bears team built around defense, running the ball and special teams in Super Bowl XLI then, and they'll play a New Orleans Saints team built around its quarterback in Super Bowl XLIV come Sunday.
The last time Manning was here, he was considered among the all-time best quarterbacks, but he needed to win the Super Bowl to validate his career. Now that he's back, the buzz is its imperative Manning win a second Super Bowl to justify his place in the discussion along with Joe Montana, John Elway and Tom Brady.
"I certainly don't feel that way, don't get into that," Manning said. "Your question had a lot 'I's' phrased in it. I really think about it as 'we.'
"This is our opportunity to be here as a team. I feel fortunate to have a number of guys on that team that you'd love to go into any type of game with. That's my approach to it and I'm sticking with that."
The early news story of this Super Bowl is the injured right ankle of Dwight Freeney, the Colts' superb defensive end. Meaning no disrespect to Freeney, but his well-being is significant only because it could affect the most significant story line.
This Super Bowl is about the quarterbacks.
Manning and Brees were the best quarterbacks this season. Manning and his Colts are 16-0 in games he's finished this season. Brees and the Saints at one point were 13-0.
Along with Brady, they've often been considered the NFL's top three quarterbacks since 2004, which was Brees' first big season. In that six-season span, Brees has averaged 4,112 passing yards with 29 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He's reached two NFC championship games, but this is his first Super Bowl.
Manning has averaged 4,207 passing yards with 33 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in those six years. He has played in three AFC championship games, and this is his second Super Bowl.
The NFL has to go back at least to the 1997 season — featuring Brett Favre and Elway, and possibly the 1984-season of Montana and Dan Marino — to find a more epic quarterback matchup in the ultimate game.
Montana outplayed Marino and won; Elway out-helicoptered Favre and won. Who will be the better quarterback between Manning and Brees on Sunday?
"That's exactly the trap that I'm not going to fall into, which is try to keep up with Peyton," Brees said.
Brees went on to say the usual line about how he and the rest of the Saints' offense will play against the Colts' defense.
"It's not me against Peyton Manning," Brees said.
It's not. And it is.