By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Barring an absolute disaster of monumental proportions, Tom Brady is going to make history on Thursday night.
He will do it when he picks up his 18th passing yard of the night, something that could happen as early as the first play from scrimmage when the Patriots host the Giants on Thursday Night Football. With 18 passing yards, Brady will pass Peyton Manning in career passing yards, leaving Brady trailing only Drew Brees on the all-time regular-season passing yards list.
Considering Brady said recently that he’s done some explorations into learning more about NFL history (by watching “Peyton’s Places”, no less), it will likely be an enjoyable moment for him.
And, while a crazy sport like football is always unpredictable, it’s likely that Brady will be having a much better day overall than Manning had when he set the record back in 2015.
You may recall that in Week 9 of the 2015 season, the stage was set for some MAJOR drama in Indianapolis, as Manning was returning with the Broncos to the stadium he essentially built in Indy, with the chance to pass Brett Favre on the all-time passing yards list. CBS was certainly ready for the moment, which had been hyped all week and throughout the game broadcast on the late national spot on Sunday afternoon.
And when the Broncos got the ball with 6:06 left in the fourth quarter, trailing by a field goal, Manning was just three measly yards shy of setting the all-time record. In Indy! What a moment.
So, on the first play of that drive … Manning did this:
A bad pass, but with 6 minutes remaining in the game, Manning was still likely to get his chance at history.
Alas, the Colts then excruciatingly squeezed the life out of that game clock, setting up Adam Vinatieri with a chip shot with 28 seconds remaining. Vinatieri of course made the kick, but Danny Trevathan was penalized for defensive holding on the kick. That gave Indy a free first down, which allowed Andrew Luck to take a knee to end the game.
Manning didn’t get the ball back.
The graphic returned.
It felt kind of mean.
Anyway, the Broncos lost for the first time all year, and Manning didn’t get to set the record in Indianapolis. A double-whammy if there ever was one.
Still, things were looking up for Manning, despite battling some injuries. Sure, he had seen his touchdown numbers drop sharply but still had managed to average 286 passing yards per game over his previous six contests. With a home date against the 3-5 Chiefs up next on the schedule, Manning likely had a fun-filled, record-setting, victorious Sunday afternoon circled on his calendar.
But then that game actually kicked off, and boy, it was a doozy.
Manning still needed those three yards to pass Favre. His first pass of the day came on a third-and-7 on the opening drive. It was picked off by Marcus Peters.
OK, one bad pass, no sweat, right? Manning will surely get back on track once the ball returned to his hands.
Well, on Denver’s next drive (after a K.C. touchdown), Manning was strip-sacked on first down (Denver recovered). He got up and then completed … a four-yard pass to Ronnie Hillman. History!
It was … a whole moment. The game stopped, an announcement was made, and Manning looked … moderately annoyed.
“I think that’s an awkward situation to have any type of stoppage of play, in the middle of a game,” Manning said of the hullabaloo after the game. “I wasn’t off to the best start.”
Manning did finally accept that the game had stopped, holding up the football, saluting the crowd, and chucking it to the sidelines to preserve it for history. (The whole thing is on YouTube.)
The whole stadium was abuzz. It was, after all, a legitimately significant accomplishment for one of the greatest passers in football history. Very cool.
The game then resumed, though, and Manning badly missed an open Emmanuel Sanders on third-and-8.
Manning avoided the pick. But the Broncos had to punt.
The Chiefs drove and added a field goal to take a 10-0 lead. Manning completed a 1-yard pass on his next second down but threw incomplete on third down. Another punt.
The Broncos’ fourth possession got off to a promising start, with Manning hitting Demaryius Thomas for 17 yards on a second-and-13 to get the offense going. At midfield, though, facing a second-and-10, Manning threw to Sanders. Sean Smith picked it off.
At that point in the record-setting day, Manning was 4-for-9 for 30 yards with two interceptions.
Amazingly, it only got worse.
Manning’s next drive: Sack, incomplete, incomplete. Punt.
The Broncos’ next offensive possession: 11-yard run, 0-yard run … interception.
This one was … bad.
After the Chiefs turned that turnover into a field goal to stretch their lead to 16-0, here’s how the next drive went for Denver:
Peyton Manning incomplete to Demaryius Thomas
Intentional grounding, Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning incomplete to Emmanuel Sanders
With the Chiefs leading 19-0 at halftime, the Broncos sent Manning back out for the second half, despite the results. A bit desperate, Denver opened the second half with an onside kick, but the Chiefs recovered. Denver did force K.C. into a three-and-out, giving the Broncos a little bit of momentum when they took over at their own 9-yard line.
Manning threw incompletions on second and third down. Denver punted.
And then, after one more Chiefs field goal made it 22-0 in favor of the visitors, Peyton Manning had one last chance to play like Peyton Manning.
He threw incomplete to Sanders on a second-and-11 … and then he threw another pick.
Through just over 35 minutes of football, Manning was a preposterous 5-for-20 for 35 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions. It was Manning’s seventh career game with at least four interceptions (including the playoffs), and — along with a pair of sacks taken — it certainly worked to spoil the record-setting day.
At that point, Gary Kubiak had no other choice but to go with Brock Osweiler, sending Manning to the bench for the rest of the game. He’d stay there for the rest of the regular season, too, as injuries prevented him from ever feeling right again.
Of course, Manning recovered famously, performing well enough while coming off the bench in Week 17 to earn back his job as the starting quarterback in time for the playoffs. He beat out Osweiler for that job, which sounds like an unfathomable thing to even ponder here in 2019. Nevertheless, after Osweiler had led the Broncos to a 5-2 record, “Manning or Osweiler” was a real discussion that the football world actually had.
Manning’s actual playoff passing numbers left a lot to be desired — he completed 55.4 percent of his passes for 539 total yards, two touchdowns and one interception while taking nine sacks and fumbling four times in three games — but with the NFL’s No. 1 defense backing him up, it was more than enough for Manning to ride off into the sunset after winning his second Super Bowl.
That is at least the happy ending that a Hall of Famer like Manning likely deserved, and it helped to wash away the stain that was that record-setting afternoon in Denver.
Now, nothing in football is ever a guarantee. Life can change for anyone in an instant, so nothing is ever a total formality. Yet suffice it to say, with Brady currently getting by with 1,409 yards, 10 TDs and just two interceptions this year at age 42, he’ll almost certainly be in for a more enjoyable record-altering evening at Gillette Stadium on Thursday night than Peyton had four years ago. But as always, it will be the way Manning ended that season that will remain Brady’s primary objective for 2019.