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Archie, Tom Sr. have unique viewpoint on Manning-Brady rivalry

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Maybe he had the feeling he should pick up the phone before.

But it wasn't until Archie Manning heard Tom Brady Sr. call 2011 "empty" without a 13th Peyton Manning-Tom Brady showdown that he actually dialed his number.

"Called him right before the Super Bowl," Archie explained this week. "And I just said, 'Doggone it, we oughta know each other.' And we talked."

There might not be two people on the planet who have had a better seat, or better perspective, for the greatest quarterback rivalry ever than the two men who raised the field generals involved.

On Sunday, their sons will meet for the 13th time. And for each dad, it never gets old.

"I think the one game that goes on everyone's calendar when the schedule comes out, at least in my house, is Tommy vs. Peyton," Tom Sr. said this week. "No matter who wins, it seems like it's always a great game. We like to come out on top, but whatever happens, it's great, great football. The possibilities that each quarterback brings out in his team, it's just terrific. Each team involved has won big games, each team has lost big ones. It's as good as it gets."

"It's been special," Archie affirmed. "I know how much respect Peyton has for Tom. And I know Tom feels the same way about Peyton. From a father, it's the little things you notice. Last year, I remember they asked Tom, when it looked like Peyton was gonna miss the season for sure, what he thought about it. And he said, 'It sucks.' I read respect into that. I think he meant it. With those guys, there are a lot of similarities."

There's similarity in excellence and accomplishment. There's similarity in how each player is built, and how both fall into the classic dropback category.

The difference might best be explained in the first game between the two.

Ask Archie Manning to recall it, and he struggles. "Wasn't there a reverse pass?" he asks. Tom Sr. has no such problem. It was Tom Jr.'s first career start, in 2001, at the RCA Dome.

"We played in Indianapolis, and we cooked them, it was about 40-14 (44-13, actually)," he recalls. "David Patten had the trifecta -- he threw for a touchdown, ran for a touchdown, and caught one. And my wife and I sat in a restaurant after, and I remember overhearing fans talking about how 'lucky' Brady was. I took that to heart. But I remember the whole day distinctly. We went to the church that Sunday across the street from the stadium. I remember it vividly."

The aforementioned anonymous fan couldn't be blamed, of course. "It was David vs. Goliath," Tom Sr. said. "Coming in, Tommy was an afterthought. Peyton was The Man. It's amazing to see where the rivalry has gone."

Tom Sr. says the 2003 regular season meeting, a 38-34 win by the Patriots highlighted by a Willie McGinest goal-line stop at the wire, is his favorite in the series. Archie's favorite is obvious: his son's breakthrough, 38-34 triumph in the AFC title game in the 2006 season.

"Sure, it's gotta be the championship game in Indy," Archie said. "I mean, my gosh, the Colts had been knocking on the door for years. That one, it didn't look good, and to come back and win it ... Yeah, that was it."

But what both parents really like about the series, along with the highs and lows and the competition, is what the two quarterbacks have come to represent.

"I'm proud of those two guys," Archie said. "They have made this what it is. They worked hard, played hard and led their teams to establish that standing and attract that kind of attention. That's a credit to both of them. That's what's special. They don't get into which one outduels the other."

In that way, it's like Magic-Bird. That's to say it's good on its own, but better because of the stakes created by how good each player has made his team.

"Both guys carry themselves with such dignity, such competitiveness," Tom Sr. said. "That's what makes it so terrific for the fans. Each guy is respected as a professional, loved where he plays, and detested for his special and unique ability by the other side. But there's nothing to dislike about either guy."

And every so often, you'll see the bond they've created with one another.

It's apparent before and after they play one another. They get together at the Kentucky Derby in the spring. They worked together on a couple initiatives, including ones on setting the standards in prepping the game footballs they throw, to represent all quarterbacks. They were also two of the named plaintiffs in the antitrust lawsuit against the league at the outset of the 2011 lockout.

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All of which adds to why last fall, when Manning arrived at Gillette Stadium with Dan Orlovsky in his place as Colts quarterback, was so strange. And why it feels much better this way, with Brady-Manning about to be renewed.

Archie will be watching from home. Tom Sr. got to Boston on Tuesday night and will be in the stands. Both guys have a good appreciation for what they'll be paying witness to one more time.

"I'm thrilled this is gonna occur on Sunday," Tom Sr. said. "I said the year was empty last year. We got to the Super Bowl, but it's always special when we compete against Peyton."

And as it turns out, Archie was right. Good thing these guys know each other now.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.

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