Editor’s note: This is the final part in a series that spotlights three Broncos-Raiders matchups to watch Sunday, 1:05 p.m., at O.co Coliseum.
Broncos QB Peyton Manning vs. Raiders FS Charles Woodson
Tale of the tape:
Manning (18): 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, 17th season, Tennessee
Woodson (24): 6-foot-1, 265 pounds, 17th season, Michigan
Charles Woodson will wear out the press with his availability after games and, in exchange, he doesn’t speak with the press during the week. He made an exception to talk about Peyton Manning.
Woodson hopped on a conference call with Denver press and lauded Manning’s elite play so deep into his storied career. Then Manning did the same thing with Bay Area scribes.
The two have crossed paths several times, dating back to the 1997 Heisman Trophy ceremony where Woodson stole the show. They will do so again on Sunday, with both players operating at a high level.
Quarterbacks can play into their late 30s, but Woodson’s efforts at a young man’s position are truly unique. He’s having a career renaissance at free safety this year, with greater positional knowledge and freedom to be a roving playmaker.
He already has 50 tackles, two interceptions and a pass defensed in eight games.
“I’d love to drink from the fountain that he’s drinking from,” interim head coach Tony Sparano said. “He’s played at a tremendous level and really is getting and better each week. More importantly, it’s just been really good for me to have a veteran player like that on the team. I have really good veteran players, but to have a guy like that with his experiences on the football team, at this point has been really good for me and has been really good for our younger players.”
The same can be said for Manning. The reigning MVP has the Broncos chasing a Super Bowl again, with a surgical passing game that’s tough to stop. Manning killed the Raiders last year, his first with Denver. Manning was 57-for-65 for 540 yards and seven touchdowns in two 2013 meetings.
Manning remains wary of Woodson, who can change a game by himself.
“The way Woodson is playing is impressive,” Manning said. “It’s one thing to make plays, be solid coverage and get your hands on the ball. I’ve seen him sticking his head, sticking his shoulder in there and making plays. He looks the same as when he got out of college. To play safety, to play DB as long as he has, you’ve got to have great athleticism.”
The pair enjoy these matchups, especially as two of three members of the 1998 draft class still playing.
''We both have a great deal of respect for what each other has done in this game,'' Woodson said Wednesday. ''And for both of us to still be playing 17 years later says a lot about both players and what the game means to us. He's done some incredible things. He's still doing incredible things in this league. ... It's fun to watch him from afar.''