His legacy was, too.
He completed four of his first five passes for 44 yards, and drove the Colts to a second-and-5 at the Saints 31 with 3:29 left. And one play later, it all came apart, when Tracy Porter anticipated Reggie Wayne hooking up underneath and jumped the route, taking the ball and the Colts’ breath away with a 74-yard touchdown.
“It was one of Peyton’s favorites, he’s beaten so many people on that same route,” said Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. “Our guys believed the pressure would be there, our guys believed it couldn’t turn it up top, because if he held it a fraction of a second longer, it would’ve been an avalanche of pressure in the pocket and he would’ve went down.”
And with the pressure on, Manning fell back on a tendency that Porter had done.
“He just read the route well,” Williams said. “It’s something we’ve seen in the set-up all year long. It’s one of his favorite route concepts. And (Porter) knew the pressure, he understood the ball would have to come out quick, he got the route, he got the stem, he saw it and he made a great play.”
Whether Manning or Brady is the better quarterback is still very much up for debate, but who’s more clutch isn’t, for now. With everything on the line, Manning did something the defense could predict, and did predict correctly.
Brady’s had big interceptions before — Most notably the one that Marlin Jackson snagged to clinch the AFC title game three years ago. But he hasn’t made such a mistake on the biggest stage, led late, game-winning drives in two of the Patriots’ three Super Bowl wins, and even guided New England to a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter of his only Super Bowl loss.
Both quarterbacks still have some miles left, so it’s not over yet. But Brady’s got a big edge in the Department of Clutch, for now.