Manning helplessly watched as New England engineered a "machine gun" attack that caught Denver's defense by surprise, dialing up 89 plays on the day and jumping out to a 31-7 lead. It marked Denver's final regular-season loss of 2012, and one that would stick with Peyton the rest of the way.
"I know we were interested in it and we were kind of curious what they were doing," Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase said this week, per The Denver Post. "It really didn't get brought up until way later in the year. We were still kind of figuring who we were at that time. I think we did change a little bit as the season progressed."
New England's rapid-fire attack was partially the product of an in-season think session with Chip Kelly -- then with the Oregon Ducks -- who helped implement a scheme that saw the Patriots increase their play count in every game leading up to that Denver tilt.
The Broncos, in turn, have grown faster. After averaging 65.5 plays per game in Manning's first 12 appearances, that figure jumped to an NFL-high 76.0 over their final four games of 2012. One year later, Denver leads the NFL with 717 total snaps.
The Patriots aren't in the top 10 in that category right now, which is a product of New England's early-season issues on offense. But with tight end Rob Gronkowski and versatile ball-carrier Shane Vereen back in the mix, this attack is humming again -- just in time for another Manning-Brady showdown for the ages.