INDIANAPOLIS—Its all pointed to the same situation, yet it felt so much different.
The stars were out and the roof was open at Lucas Oil Stadium for the Colts-Patriots game in early November of 2008, as the two teams trotted out in front of a national television audience to renew the NFL's nouveau riche rivalry.
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A year after the Colts' 18-15 win, things seem a little more normal. Both Indianapolis and New England are at the top of their division. This game will likely decided who is the best team in the AFC, as it has in the past.
As for the signal callers, we'll, they've never been better.
"I appreciate the effort that our receivers are making to get open," said Manning, passing off the praise for his solid 2009 season. "They're doing good things with the ball after the catch."
Manning is doing things as well as ever a season removed from missing all of training camp with a Bursa Sac infection. It caused him and the team to sputter a little bit at the start, but the team quickly recovered to finish 12-4, and Manning to finish with over 4,00 passing yards.
In 2009, Manning has an NFL-high 70.6 percent completion percentage while tossing 2,545 yards and 16 touchdowns compared to five interceptions.What makes those stats more impressive is the fact that the Colts have had to replace longtime standout Marvin Harrison and starter Anthony Gonzalez this season, replacing them with a second-year and rookie receiver.
The quarterback credits a quick-pass strategy for the high completion percentage, but his receiving corps for what happens once the football is in their hands.
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"We're calling those thinking they could turn into big plays and Dallas and Reggie and Austin, Pierre those guys do a good job with the ball once they get it into their hands. Of course Addai and Brown do as well," said Manning of the pass catchers.
Such a return to dominance in 2009 was much harder for Brady, who missed the 2008 preseason with an ankle injury, then the entire season with a torn ACL and MCL suffered in the opening game. It was the first major time missed for Brady at any level of football, and took a full year of rehabilitation to finally get back into playing shape.
"My knee injury was completely different than his," said Manning of Brady's knee injury. "He had major, major reconstructive surgery, they guy he should be compared to or talk to should be Carson Palmer."
Brady revealed this week, however, that he did consult Manning following the surgery about an infection that popped up during rehabilitation.
Yeah, he had the same staph infection, too, said Brady to the Boston Herald. I was trying to (see if I had) the same staph that he had to figure out the treatment.
I called him and said, Tell me about (your) knee and what youve went through, and he provided some help. He was very encouraging. Always has been.
Manning acknowledged the conversation Wednesday but says that Brady still had the tougher road back to the field.
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"There were some similarities there but not quite as much similar as you'd think," said Manning of Brady. "His was a different deal."
But on the field, as in the past, Brady has mimicked Manning, throwing for 2,364 yards and 16 touchdowns compared to just five interceptions. In his last three games Brady has passed for over 300 yards in each game with 10 touchdowns to three interceptions.
"I think he is at full strength," said Colts linebacker Gary Brackett. "He's done a great job of responding to his knee injury and he's going out there and making some good plays."