CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Vintage wine, Rob Lowe and Cindy Crawford blush at how well Tom Brady ages.
He has turned 40 into the new 20. As Carolina's Cam Newton said this week, Brady is the "Benjamin Button" of quarterbacks. Remember when Peyton Manning reached 39? He nosedived statistically, undermined by a foot injury that left him hanging on by dental floss in his gutsy Super Bowl 50 playoff run.
Brady's last two years are breathtaking. He is 17-3 with 44 touchdowns and four interceptions over his past 20 regular seasons. And that doesn't take into consideration his engineering of the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history. So you get it. He's handsome, hard-working, revered in his locker room and insanely driven. Yet, he remains mortal in Denver.
Consider it the red dot on his career's cashmere sweater.
Brady owns a 3-7 record in Denver, including 0-3 in the playoffs. Overall, he is 6-6 in the regular season against the Broncos. In the AFC Championship Game following the 2015 season, former Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips dialed up the best plan of his career, his defenders hitting Brady more than he had ever endured. It began with a Derek Wolfe pancake and ended with Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware chasing him into incompletions.
Brady, for reasons beyond the pass rush, has struggled with his accuracy in Denver (the ball carries more here, and makes all stats meaningless apparently based on the recent National League MVP voting for Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, but I digress).
Brady arrives on Sunday night with the possibility of his starting right tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle) sitting out and reliable receiver Chris Hogan saddled with a shoulder injury.
But no bravado exists from the slumping Broncos this week. Regarding Brady or otherwise. Only respect.
“He’s playing at a high level. I don’t see a drop off at all. He’s obviously a smart football player, but his arm talent is excellent. His ball placement has been excellent," coach Vance Joseph said. "His poise in the pocket, obviously, he’s one of the best of all time, so it’s going to be a challenge."
The Broncos have attempted to frame this with a positive spin. Quarterback Brock Osweiler, who might be making his last start for Denver if the team loses a fifth-straight game, called the Patriots the "perfect opponent" to get back on track. I would suggest the Browns or 49ers would be better, but hey, to each his own. What Osweiler meant is that a victory against a team of New England's ilk could accelerate a U-turn for the Broncos. But it would have to come at the expense of Brady, who can be excused for saying, in true Benjamin Button fashion, "I am getting too young for this."