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Al Michaels relishes latest Patriots-Broncos tilt

Not much more than a passing knowledge of the NFL or some familiarity with the “Names” column is required to know that Tom Brady is the subject of envy rather than a practitioner of it.

But when Brady and the Patriots host the Denver Broncos on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” he couldn’t be faulted if he glanced over at the weapons at the disposal of a fellow legendary quarterback and feels a twinge of . . . well, of something unfamiliar. A brief coveting of thy rival’s pass-catchers might be understandable, not that Brady would ever admit as much.

“You don’t hear him complaining about it,’’ said NBC’s Al Michaels, who will call the much-anticipated game with analyst Cris Collinsworth, the second time this season the superb broadcast duo has worked a Patriots game. “You never hear him mutter about it. He’s one of those guys, you deal the cards and he plays the hand.”


But Michaels acknowledged during the Patriots-Falcons broadcast in Week 4 that Manning has typically had more star power in his huddle through the years than Brady.

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“I was talking during that game about how great Manning is, and how he has these great receivers now, a quartet that I’m not sure are up there with Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, and whoever else we can throw in there [from his days with the Colts], but it’s close. It’s pretty close, with Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, and Eric Decker, who isn’t having a great year statistically but he’s no stiff, he’s a great receiver.

“And Tom, he had [Randy] Moss come in, and that made a difference, obviously, but through the years he usually had this question of, ‘Who’s the go-to guy, who’s the No. 1 guy?’

“I remember talking to Tom in 2004 or so and asking, ‘Who’s your guy?’ and he had a whole bunch of receivers who were about the same statistically. He actually put Deion Branch out there as maybe the most reliable, and Branch did wind up being the MVP of the Super Bowl.

“But Tom never had that whole great group of four receivers who most or all could go to the Pro Bowl. Manning had that with the Colts, and he has it now.”


While the Brady-Manning showdown — the 14th, and doesn’t it feel like more? — will be central to the broadcast, it’s not the only compelling plot line. Welker, who after six seasons and 672 regular-season receptions as a Patriot joined the Broncos as a free agent in the offseason, is expected to make his first appearance in Foxborough with his new team. Welker suffered a concussion in the Broncos’ victory over the Chiefs last Sunday, but practiced Thursday.

“There’s a lot of great story lines in this game, and that’s one right there,” said Michaels.

“But the quarterbacks are central because of who they are and what they’ve accomplished. I’m not going to say it’s a surprise, but it’s neat that these guys, in their advancing 30s, can still be playing at the highest level.

“It’s a great thing, and I hope this isn’t the last of the Manning-Brady matchups. I’m going to savor this one.”

Gaffe by Peter Gammons

This week’s lesson in the dangers of spontaneous sports-talk hyperbole: During an interview with Mike Lupica on ESPN Radio Thursday, Peter Gammons was asked about Alex Rodriguez’s recent odd behavior, including his decision to storm out of a hearing Wednesday regarding his 211-game suspension and take his case to WFAN host Mike Francesa.


Gammons’s response was at least as unfortunate as anything Rodriguez has done lately:

“I’ve had people on the Yankees say this to me,’’ Gammons said. “He wants to blow up the world. You know, he’s like the Marathon bombers. It’s just, he’s going to get them.”

Gammons was quick to express remorse on Twitter, writing, “It was a stupid, poorly worded comp of blowing up a process. Alex would never hurt a human. I hope I haven’t hurt him.”

The apology seemed entirely genuine, but the lesson should have been obvious before he even said the words to Lupica: An analogy that compares sports trivialities to a still-raw tragedy is one that never should be considered, let alone shared with an audience.

An obvious dig

Couldn’t help but chuckle at the Sons of Sam Horn message board’s thread title regarding the news that this would be the final season for a certain NFL color analyst: “Dan Dierdorf To Retire From Stating The Obvious.” Dierdorf, the Hall of Fame offensive tackle who will hang up the microphone and put away his collection of familiar platitudes at season’s end after a 30-year second career as a broadcaster, did have a knack for telling you what you had seen yourself, then telling you again just in case. But he did it with abundant affability and good humor, and those are attributes that are always worth appreciating . . . Somehow managed to overlook a mention of this when he had a change of heart, but Mike Narracci, the director of NESN’s Red Sox game broadcasts among other duties, is remaining at the network. It was reported here in May that he would leave after the baseball season. His decision to stay is a good thing for NESN and viewers. Narracci is as respected as it gets . . . After a week’s delay, Glenn Ordway will make his debut on Sirius XM’s Mad Dog Sports Radio (Channel 86) Saturday from 8-11 a.m. The show will also air Sunday in the same time slot.