Second Matchup of Manning Brothers Different in a Positive Way, Peyton Manning Says
INDIANAPOLIS – In this case, Peyton Manning said change is good. Very good.
The last time the Colts played the New York Giants was the only previous time the Colts' quarterback has played an NFL game against his brother, Giants quarterback Eli Manning. That game was played in the regular-season opener. This time, it's a week later.
Manning, in his 13th season as the Colts' quarterback, said the week makes a difference.
This time, there's a lot less talk. This time, there's a lot less hype.
This time, Manning said while it's still a high-profile, prime-time game, there is less to distract from what he said this week will be a very imant – and a very difficult game – for the Colts.
"It's a different feeling," Manning said as the Colts (0-1) prepared to play the Giants (1-0) at Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday at 8:20 p.m. in a game nationally televised on NBC's Sunday Night Football.
"It's a different feeling for both of us."
That different feel, Eli and Peyton each said this week, isn't just each player having four more years of experience, and it's not just each player having been through the experience before.
Four years ago, when the Colts beat the Giants, 26-21, in Giants Stadium, the NFL scheduled the game for Kickoff Weekend. As such, the league announced the match-up in March, giving media nearly six months to plan coverage and discuss a game with one of the most unique storylines in NFL history.
Peyton Manning was the No. 1 overall selection by the Colts in the 1998 NFL Draft, and Eli was the No. 1 overall selection in 2004. Never before had two brothers each been selected in No. 1 overall, and when the teams played in September of 2006, it was the first time two brothers had started at quarterback in the same NFL game.
That's one of the highest-profiles imaginable for a regular-season opener, and Eli this week said he agreed with Peyton that the slightly lower-key feel this week is welcome.
"You get sick of answering the same question over and over and over again for five months, and it was just too much," Eli Manning said this week. "I think with this week, you can handle it because it's been a little bit less stressful for Peyton and I, and we can think about it and enjoy this game and the fact that we both will be on the field on Sunday. . . .
"I understand that it's a big deal to the media and fans, and that it's a unique story and everything. I think it's definitely been better this year in that it's the second game of the season, and not the opener where you had four months to talk about it. It's a lot easier dealing with just one week, and I think it's a lot more relaxing for Peyton and I just having to deal with it for one week."
Peyton Manning also said the difference in buildup has been striking – and not at all unpleasant.
"This is really the only week that we've had to talk about it," Peyton Manning said. "Four years ago it was a lot different, we had to do a lot more, but we haven't had to do the sit-down interviews or anything like that, so it's been much shorter and easier on us this year. . . .
"Certainly, I know Eli and I are both glad this thing was week two. Four years ago it was the first week of the season and (we) talked about it all preseason during training camp. Now, it's week two, we'll just have to talk about it one week. There is no question that it is an honor and a privilege to be on the same field as your younger brother. It's a special situation."
What neither Peyton nor Eli Manning said is easy – and what neither said they really enjoy – is the idea of competing against a family member.
"I probably don't look forward to it all that much," Peyton Manning said. "One thing I can do, and I know he does, too, once you get out there playing you truly are competing against that defense and trying to win against that defense. But all that other stuff, I'm glad it's only once every four years."
Eli Manning said that may be particularly true for the brothers' parents: Archie – a former NFL quarterback with the New Orleans Saints, Houston and Minnesota – and Olivia.
"I think it's a little difficult," Eli Manning said. "It's hard for them to be happy at the end of the game for one son knowing that the other son is disappointed. They'll be at the game and rooting for the offense the whole time. They're hoping for a high scoring game."
Peyton Manning said while he doesn't necessarily savor the idea of competing against his brother, he said there will be moments this week he takes time to appreciate the situation. In the NFL, teams from the AFC (Colts) and the NFC (Giants) play once every four years, and while Peyton Manning said he hopes to play against the Giants in New Jersey in 2014, he said he likely won't be playing when the teams meet in 2018.
Until then, he said autumns aren't a time for seeing family – especially family members with the same type of job he holds.
"Somebody was asking me earlier, 'What do you all compete in?', and we really just don't do that very much because we aren't together that much," Peyton Manning said. "I mean this will be the only time I will see him all fall, it will be the five-minute conversation I get to have with him before the game and four of the minutes I'll be telling the cameras to get away so I can talk to my brother without being miked. The times you are together, they are pretty rare, so we just enjoy each other's company."
Peyton Manning this week recalled a moment from before the 2006 game. During the National Anthem, he and Eli were standing near the same yard line on opposite sides of the field. Since then, each brother has been a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player – Peyton following the 2006 season and Eli the following year – and each are four years more experienced.
Still, Peyton Manning said the moment was special, and he expects such moments again Sunday. He said although the Giants are good – very good – and that the game is important for the Colts for many reasons beyond the personal, at least once or twice he will allow the moment to be savored.
"That was a pretty unique feeling, being up there in New York, singing the National Anthem and seeing your younger brother straight across from you, knowing that he is about to be the starting quarterback for that team," Peyton Manning said. "That seems like a long time ago. A lot has happened since then. It's a different team for the Giants. Eli has won an unbelievable Super Bowl, and he's established himself as a top NFL quarterback.
"It's a game and the preparation is the same, but I'm not going to sit here and say that I don't take one moment to reflect that it is pretty special."