Eli and Peyton Manning renew sibling rivalry on Sunday
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If this were an ordinary week, Eli Manning would call Peyton Manning at least once before kickoff on Sunday. The two would critique their upcoming opponents, sharing their observations of various defensive schemes, tendencies and players.
But, in case you missed it, this is no ordinary NFL week. For the third -- and possibly final time in their storied NFL careers -- the two quarterbacks will go head-to-head when Eli's Giants host Peyton's Broncos.
It will be a tough day in the Manning family. Parents Archie and Olivia will be at MetLife Stadium, cheering for whichever offense is on the field. Brother Cooper will skip it, having found it too awkward to cheer against one brother playing another.
On some levels, Eli and Peyton could do without the game, too, or at least the buildup to it as they are asked over and over about one another. Yet shortly before the beginning of Manning Bowl III on Sunday, the uniqueness of their situation will wash over the brothers.
"The national anthem is playing and you look across at your big brother and give him a nod. Those are neat moments," Eli said Wednesday. "Just seeing him at the coin flip. You understand how special it is to play at this level in the NFL."
Peyton, on a conference call with Giants reporters, also mentioned the national anthem as a time for reflection.
"The past times we've played the Giants, for whatever reason, Eli and I are on the same yard line singing the national anthem," Peyton said. "I just take a moment and realize that it's pretty unique and that is my brother over there."
Eli, 32, heads into the game 0-2 against his 37-year-old brother. They first faced each other in 2006, when Peyton's Colts won, 26-21. Four years later, Peyton's Colts beat the Giants, 38-14, in Indianapolis.
A lot has changed since that last meeting, and, though neither brother said so yesterday, there was once some thought that they might never play each other again.
Peyton missed the entire 2011 season and was released by the Colts after undergoing neck fusion surgery. For years, it had been Peyton who came back from college or the NFL and taught his brother techniques he had learned from various coaches. Suddenly, Eli was thrust into the role of critiquing and giving feedback to his older brother.
"I was obviously hoping that Peyton would be playing football again and rooting for him," Eli said. "I was doing everything I could to support him and try to give him feedback on his rehab as he was going through a tough time and kind of a time of unknown of what he was going to be able to do, whether it was to be able to play again or how quickly he was going to play again."
Peyton, who led Denver to the playoffs last season, has erased any doubts that he can still play at a high level, especially after tying an NFL single-game record with seven touchdown passes in Week 1. Peyton finished with 462 yards passing and was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for an NFL-record 24th time.
For Giants coach Tom Coughlin, it's hard to overstate exactly what Peyton has accomplished.
"He's a guy who did it one way for 14 years in one city and came to Denver and had a new city, new teammates, new coaches and didn't play the year before," Coughlin said. "He was coming off an unusual type of injury that I don't think anyone totally understood. I think it's a tribute to how far he's come and all the work he's put in and getting where he is today."
Where he is today is in the film room in Denver, dissecting the Giants defense. Sunday's game marks the first time in NFL history that two starting quarterbacks meet coming off 400-yard passing games. Unfortunately for the Giants, in addition to throwing for 450 yards and four touchdowns, Eli also threw three interceptions in the Week 1 loss in Dallas.
Eli said that loss, more than some perceived sibling rivalry, makes him want to go out and have a big game Sunday. Yet when pressed, he admitted that it would be nice to have bragging rights just once.
Said Eli: "Hopefully, one day I'll think back at the times we played each other and remember at least one win."