Everybody’s favorite website, Pro Football Focus, yesterday published a list of what they are calling the “10 Best QB Duels of the PFF Era”, which expands back to the 2006 season, which is when they started accumulating their data. That does gives them a solid 11 seasons of data to work with, and in the most prolific era of the quarterback position.
Of course, it’s not necessarily the 10 best quarterback duels, but is actually literally the 10 games in which they recorded the highest cumulative grade between the two opposing quarterbacks—and some surprising names end up on the list that way.
The top matchup of the past 11 years, for example, features Russell Wilson, sure, but going up against Tyrod Taylor. Not that Taylor is a bad quarterback, but you don’t exactly see him as the sort of quarterback who would thrive in a ‘duel’, and he did lose the game.
Second on the list? Peyton Manning versus…Terrelle Pryor. Taylor makes yet another appearance on the fourth spot on the list versus Kirk Cousins, while Jay Cutler also gets his name on the list multiple times.
The eighth game on the list might be one that rings a bell. It features the Pittsburgh Steelers and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger versus the Patriots and Tom Brady in the opening game of the 2015 season. the Patriots got out to a commanding lead, but Roethlisberger attempted to forge a valiant comeback that came up short late.
In that game, Roethlisberger completed 26 of 38 pass attempts for a 68.4 completion percentage, throwing for 351 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The Steelers ended up losing by a score of 28-21.
Brady, meanwhile, completed 25 of 32 passes for 288 yards and four touchdown passes, three of which went to tight end Rob Gronkowski. The other touchdown pass also, naturally, went to a tight end as well.
The Patriots in that game scored two touchdowns in the second quarter before the Steelers ended the half with a field goal. Another touchdown early in the third put Pittsburgh down by 18 before Roethlisberger led a touchdown drive ending in a rushing score and then a field goal at the top of the fourth to make it a seven-point game.
But Brady came back and connected with Gronkowksi for the third touchdown between the two on the day, and it was all Roethlisberger could do to rally late for a touchdown pass of his own to Antonio Brown with just two seconds left on the clock to pull within seven again.
PFF gave Brady a grade of 88.1 for the game, and Roethlisberger got a 88 grade. Surely it was not the best grade for either in their respective PFF careers, but the two combined in the same game represented one of the best pairs in the past decade-plus.