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Saturday, November 20, 2010
Inside the Manning-Belichick rivalry


The mental battle between Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Peyton Manning truly defines the Patriots-Colts rivalry.

And it's a battle the Colts quarterback has dominated of late.

Since starting 1-7 against Belichick's Patriots, Manning and the Colts have won five of the past six meetings. That includes two straight wins in Foxborough, where he was previously 0-7.

A key part of the Patriots' strategy against Manning was to take away the deep ball in the middle of the field. From 2000-2004 against New England, Manning had a 76.4 passer rating on balls thrown in the middle of the field, according to STATS LLC. Against the rest of the NFL, his rating was 109.0 on those throws.

The solution? Manning stopped forcing it. From 2000-2004, Manning averaged 9.1 attempts down the middle against the Patriots. He has since more than cut that in half to just 4.3 per game.

Other aspects of Manning's performance have also changed over the history of this rivalry. For more on this story, check out the piece from Stats and Information's Jeremy Lundblad at ESPNBoston.com.