How Ernie Adams Impacted Early Tom Brady-Peyton Manning Patriots Rivalry

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The New England Patriots battled with the Indianapolis Colts on several occasions in the early 2000s at the height of an elite quarterback rivalry between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Former Patriots director of football research Ernie Adams recently appeared on Julian Edelman’s “Games With Names” podcast and shared his respect for the opposing Hall of Fame quarterback.

“The one that was most impressive in pregame, hands down, was Peyton Manning,” Adams shared.

The now-71-year-old marveled at Manning’s pregame preparation on the field, timing up his footwork and putting game-speed effort into his routine. During this time, Manning and the Colts challenged teams with a high-powered offense with capable weapons such as Marvin Harrison Sr., Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. As a result, Adams spent extra time ensuring the Patriots were ready to counter one of the sport’s top offenses.

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“I made a point, at least an hour a day, to study the Colts,” Adams reflected. “Everyone was trying to play them in Cover 3 and Cover 1. They killed teams running up the seams. It was a slaughter. I said, ‘We can’t do this. We need to go in and play Cover 4.”

That approach certainly helped New England as the Patriots knocked the Colts out of the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, including the 2003 AFC Championship Game when Manning threw four interceptions at Gillette Stadium.

Manning retired after the 2015 season and entered the Hall of Fame in 2021. In his new career, he co-hosts a “Manningcast” simulcast with his brother, two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning, of Monday Night Football on ESPN. One specific episode brought justification to the retired Patriots staffer.

“Peyton goes, ‘Yeah, I don’t really my in-cuts and my seams against that,’” Adams remembered. “I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Yes! That’s why we played in it.’ It made my day.”

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Years after the peak of the rivalry, Adams may just be the ultimate unsung hero of the Patriots’ 20-year dynasty.

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