Former Kent State Golden Flashes signal-caller turned NFL wide receiver Julian Edelman has gained the reputation of being one of quarterback Tom Brady’s favorite targets when the New England Patriots’ offense takes the field.
And Edelman lived up to that reputation when he caught a deflected pass on the game-tying drive of Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons, where the Patriots came back from a 25-point deficit to force and win the game in overtime at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, Sunday night.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Brady said. “It was one of the greatest catches. We’ve been on the other end of a few of those catches, and tonight, you know, we came up with it. It was a pretty spectacular catch. He had a hell of a game.
“It was one of the greatest catches I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how the hell he caught it. I mean, I don’t think anybody (does). I don’t think he does, but that’s the way it goes.”
With the Patriots facing a first and 10 at their own 36-yard line and needing a score plus the two-point conversion to draw even with the Falcons at 28-28 late in the fourth quarter, Brady again tried to fit the ball into a tight window to Edelman, who ran a crossing route over the middle of the field out of the right slot.
Initially, the pass was batted away by defensive back Robert Alford, but the ball ricocheted off of his right shin and into Edelman’s hands.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” running back LeGarrette Blount said. “That was probably something that’ll be one of the top 10 plays in Super Bowl history. That was an amazing catch. He played lights out all game. He played an amazing game.”
Tight end Martellus Bennett added, “I thought it was fantastic. Throughout the game, Edelman has always been a guy to make big plays. He made a big catch and a fantastic one right there.”
Edelman’s catch had a similarity to one that went against the Patriots 10 years ago in Super Bowl XLII when New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning avoided a heavy rush and lofted a pass down the middle of the field for wide receiver David Tyree, who pinned the ball against his helmet and maintained possession while crashing to the field amidst several New England defenders.
“I was actually right in front of him when he caught it,” running back James White said. “I was pretty sure that he caught it. It was a big play in the game. It seems like there is one of those catches every Super Bowl. I’m just glad it went our way this time.”
Edelman finished the game with 87 yards on five catches, including a 27-yarder, but the 23-yard gain on the deflection will be the one he is remembered for every time Patriots fans reminisce about Super Bowl LI.
“Julian has great concentration,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “He is a tremendous competitor, as good of a competitor as anyone that I have coached.
“This guy has played slot defensive back for us, returns kicks, covers kicks, blocks, catches tough passes, runs the ball for us on sweeps and stuff like that. He does whatever it takes. He made a tremendous play. It is not the first one he has made, but that was obviously a big one.”