SANTA CLARA, Calif. — There’s clearly no shortage of former NFL players who can’t stand the Patriots.
Former Colts receiver Brandon Stokley, who played with Peyton Manning on the Colts from 2003-06, couldn’t have been more overjoyed that Manning beat the Patriots to get back to his fourth Super Bowl.
“You can’t imagine. He’s like a brother, so happy for him because I know what he’s put in, not only his whole career but this year. I know what he’s been though,” Stokley told WEEI.com Thursday. “I know how hard he’s worked to have a chance to get back out on the field.
“For me, watching him do it against the Patriots a week and a half ago, it didn’t get better than that.”
Why does it mean so much to see the Patriots go down?
“To beat them to go to the Super Bowl, for me, was like watching him win the Super Bowl because I don’t care for the Patriots because I could hardly never beat them. I still dislike them. It was that rivalry, that type of rivalry where I didn’t like then, I don’t like them now. I’ll never like them. So, to see Peyton beat them to go to the Super Bowl put a big smile on my face. I’ve still got a smile on my face from that game.”
Stokley, who is working for Denver’s Channel 7 covering Manning and the Super Bowl, also insists that the report on NFL.com that Manning has told close friends he’s retire “is crap.”
Like Super Bowl loser Brad Hoover of the 2003 Panthers, Stokley’s emotions and recollections of his four-year rivalry with the Patriots in the mid-2000s are still vivid. The Patriots dominated the early part of it, winning all four games, including twice in the playoffs, from 2003-05. But the Colts won both games in Foxboro in 2005-06 and the memorable AFC championship in Indianapolis in Jan. 2007.
“Didn’t win a lot. That’s the biggest thing. They always seemed to have our number,” Stokley said. “I know we won one regular season game there and ’06, the AFC championship game. But they were always battles. It really was. You knew that when you played a team like that, you couldn’t make a lot of mistakes.
“[They are] so well coached and they just did most of the things the right way. And we seemed to always play in Foxboro, and that seemed to be the biggest difference between winning and losing for us.”
Did Peyton have a message before those games?
“There wasn’t a whole lot of discussion about what we had to do,” Stokley said. “I think we approached it like any other game and we prepared the same way like any other game. I can’t speak for Peyton, how he prepares for a game on his own and what he does and watches but as far as our team goes, we took the same approach as we always did and tried to prepare as hard as we could. It’s just that most of those games we were out-executed, out-played.
“You knew you were always in for a battle and knew you were going to have to play really good football. But other than that, we always felt like we could play with them. Just most of the time they beat us. We won a few of them, I guess. They won their fair share, more than we won. But it was always fun. It was always competitive. Most of those darn games, even in the regular season, were in Foxboro. So we could never get that home field in the playoffs. And when we finally did, we beat them in ’06.”