They first met in the third game of the 2001 season, the fourth-year franchise quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts matched against a little known first-time starter for the New England Patriots.
Peyton Manning was intercepted three times that Sunday at Foxboro Stadium. Tom Brady, seemingly a place holder for injured starter Drew Bledsoe, completed 13 of 23 passes in a 44-13 victory.
No one knew that was just the first chapter. No one knew they would be linked for the next decade as two of the best at their position, certain Hall of Famers who seemed to define the other's career.
On Sunday, Manning and his Denver Broncos host Brady's Patriots with a trip to the Super Bowl at stake, and there is no avoiding the headline.
It's Brady vs. Manning.
"It transcends the NFL," said Jim Nantz, who will broadcast the game for CBS. "This is something everyone wants to see. This is tantamount to Ali-Frazier one more time. This is Palmer-Nicklaus. This is Bird-Magic. I'm not trying to create some sort of synthetic drama here, but this is what it is. This is as big as it gets."
Nantz, of course, has an interest in inflating the drama surrounding the 15th meeting between the quarterbacks. But he's hardly the only analyst or media pundit to link the Manning-Brady rivalry to some of the great duels in sports history, two iconic rivals facing off on the biggest stage.
"Great moments require great people to do great things, and both of these players have accomplished that," CBS analyst and former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason said. "What you're watching here are two guys that will go down as two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time."
In the previous 14 meetings, Brady is 8-3 in the regular season and 2-1 in the playoffs. Brady has passed for 3,403 yards, 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in the 14 games, Manning for 3,971 yards, 29 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.
What's at stake at Mile High Stadium in Denver? Brady, 36, and the Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl since February 2005, and they are bidding for their eighth Super Bowl appearance, which would tie the Cowboys and Steelers for most in history. The 37-year-old Manning, one of the most prolific passers in NFL history, is searching for his second Super Bowl title to cap his career.
But the quarterbacks attempted to deflect the spotlight in the days leading up to the game. Manning insisted after Denver's victory over the San Diego Chargers last Sunday that "it's the Broncos vs. the Patriots."
Brady was asked about the first meeting against Manning in 2001 and claimed he remembered little. He was asked about past matchups with Manning and steered the conversation to the here and now.
"I'm pretty much focused on this week," Brady said. "I don't really think about those things, truthfully. It's just not where my mind is."
Sharper arrested: Former All-Pro defensive back Darren Sharper has been arrested on suspicion of rape, the Los Angeles Police Department said.
Sharper, 38, was arrested and booked Friday and released on $200,000 bail, according to the LAPD. He faces a Feb. 14 court appearance.
LAPD said it is investigating Sharper in connection with two sexual assaults that occurred in October and earlier this month in the West Los Angeles area.
Sharper played 14 seasons in the NFL (1997-2010), mostly with Green Bay. A five-time Pro Bowler, Sharper has worked as an analyst for the NFL Network since retiring in 2010.
The NFL Network announced in a statement Saturday that Sharper has been suspended without pay, effective immediately.
Vikings: Running back Adrian Peterson will decide after an evaluation next week if surgery is needed on his groin, according to a USA Today Sports report.
Jets: The team retained several members of coach Rex Ryan's staff, including offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman.
Titans: The team has hired UCLA defensive coordinator Lou Spanos as Ken Whisenhunt's new linebackers coach.
The Associated Press and ESPN.com contributed to this report.