Tom Brady and Drew Brees are now in a dead heat as both quarterbacks compete to be the first to break Peyton Manning’s career touchdown record.
The two future Hall of Famers are chasing a record set back in 2015 by then-Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning – himself a future Hall of Famer. That was the season that Manning won his second Super Bowl championship and retired from the NFL after an incredible 18-year career.
It was also the season that Manning set the record for most career passing touchdowns with 539 scores. The old record was held by Brett Favre at 508 passing touchdowns – a mark that has since been surpassed by both Brady and Brees.
Now it’s just a matter of who’s going to break Manning’s record first. At their current rate, both Brees and Brady have a very good chance to break the record this season – the two quarterbacks are currently tied with 532 career passing touchdowns each. Seven touchdowns from either player would tie Manning’s mark, and eight touchdowns would obviously break it and set a new milestone altogether.
There was a time earlier in the season where it looked like Brady would be the first to eclipse Manning’s record, due in large part to Brees’ thumb injury and subsequent surgery on his throwing hand. But Brady and the Patriots offense has been wildly inconsistent and subpar all season for the most part, allowing Brees plenty of time to get back into the thick of the race even after missing several weeks to recover from his injury.
Brees now has four more games to try and break Manning’s record, while Brady still has five (Brees and the Saints played on Thanksgiving Day in Week 13). The extra game could favor Brady, but Brees undoubtedly has the more electric and explosive offense of the two passers this season. This race could come down to the wire.
Comparing the schedules for the two teams also helps us fans get a better idea of what might happen down the stretch. New Orleans faces the 49ers, Colts, Titans, and Panthers to close out the regular season, while New England draws the Texans, Chiefs, Bengals, Bills, and Dolphins. The Saints definitely have tougher tests in terms of those defenses they’ll see in December, but they also have a better offense than the Patriots.
New England might need to rely more heavily on Brady in the coming weeks – particularly in the games against the Texans, Chiefs, and Bills, all of whom represent significant hurdles for the Patriots. Even if the Pats’ No. 1-ranked defense shuts down some of those offenses, it’s difficult to imagine Brady and New England emerging victorious against high-powered offensive teams like Houston and Kansas City without putting up some major points and scoring some touchdowns through the air.
For the Saints, all four of the defenses Brees and his offense will face present formidable challenges. The 49ers are particularly stout against both the run and the pass, and that fearsome defensive line could wreak havoc on Brees all day long.
While it’s still conceivable that neither Brees nor Brady will break Manning’s mark this season, there’s a very good chance that at least one of the two of them – if not both – will do so in 2019. From there, it will be just as interesting (if not more so) to see who ends up playing the longest and ultimately finishing their career as either the No. 1 or the No. 2 all-time leader in total passing touchdowns.