Like so many others, Julian Edelman is one of my absolute favorite people on this great planet. One could say that I’m severely obsessed with him. Yeah, he’s good looking and all, but the main reason why myself and a large number of Patriots fans love him as much as we do is because he is the epitome of a great football player. He screams toughness, determination and grit. He’s stupid quick and can make anyone miss. He’s hard-working, at the facility before six A.M. every morning. He loves New England football. He’s never satisfied. You could argue that he suffers two+ concussions a game, literally. The catch that he made when it absolutely mattered most is a microcosm of everything that I listed about him above.
The story of seemingly every Patriots-played Super Bowl is some kind of insane circus catch made against them, late in the game to crush and break the hearts of Patriots fans across the globe. From David Tyree’s helmet catch in ‘07 that constantly replays over and over again in so many New England fans’ heads. To Mario Manningham’s sideline catch that, too, is etched eternally in so many brains. Then to Jermaine Kearse’s indescribable bobble catch in the waning minutes of Super Bowl 49. Lastly, to Julio Jones’ outstanding toe tapping sideline grab late in the fourth of Super Bowl LI that I can guarantee every Patriots fan experienced flashbacks because of. It never ends, and they’re impossible to hide from, apparently.
For the first time ever, the ball bounced the Patriots way when it came to a game-changing, nearly humanly impossible catch. And I mean literally:
I won’t lie, I’ve watched that GIF on repeat approximately 54,000 times trying to somehow comprehend how in the hell he caught that. What Edelman did was previously impossible in every way, shape and form. The immense skill that it took for him to hold onto that is beyond explanation. David Tyree can put his helmet catch in his pipe and smoke it. There’s a new sheriff in town and his name is Julian Edelman.
With about two and a half minutes left in regulation, the score at 28-20, the ball was at the 36-yard line, after a few first down completions to get there. Brady took the snap and threw deep over the middle for Edelman, who had three defenders on him while the catch was progressing.
Atlanta safety Keanu Neal came in from the right and was up against Edelman’s right shoulder, safety Ricardo Allen came charging in and dove from the side to get in on the action and try to do something, and corner Robert Alford came in from the left side got sandwiched in between everybody at the end of the day.
Alford was the one who batted the ball up into the air, leaving it totally up for grabs. Once Alford’s back slammed to the turf, the ball bounced off of his shin while staying in between his legs, not allowing it to go very far from that point on. Edelman was in the process of grabbing the ball simultaneously as Alford kicked the ball with his opposite leg, giving it even more air time, somehow.
This is when and where the magic happened. Edelman bobbled the ball with both of his hands for about .4 seconds, essentially sacrificing himself to the football gods to get the ball. He got both hands under it, holding on by his fingertips, mere milliseconds before it would have hit the ground and everything changed. He clearly had possession of the ball, but barely, at the same time. He clung his entire body to the ball, holding on for dear life, in the midst of a pile of poor, choking Falcons. A majority of fans probably assumed that it was incomplete and we let another one get away from us, but Edelman said, ‘no, not on my watch’. That lone 23-yard reception was just one piece to the ultimate Patriots comeback puzzle.
If that catch doesn’t describe Edelman’s unique style of play, then I don’t know what does. There are few players out there who are 100% willing to sell their soul to the devil just to make one catch. That single play probably caused about 1.5 concussions to Edelman’s noggin, if history tells us anything. And he’s more than okay with that. That’s why he’s so like-able He is the human depiction of the Patriot Way. From now on, whenever someone asks me why I love him so much, I’ll just show them that GIF, and that should answer it.
Personally, that’s the greatest catch I’ve ever seen, and I think it’s the greatest catch of all time. Yes, above Tyree’s. Edelman’s took every ounce of his pure skill, concentration and determination. There’s a short list of NFL receivers who make that catch. Give Edelman a chance to make that catch again, and I believe that he catches it. Tyree’s, on the other hand, was complete and total luck; nothing more, nothing less. Give him a shot at catching that again, and it either goes over his head, it slips between his hands and drops it and anything else in between. Both occurred in crunch time when it mattered and both paid off in the end, but I take Edelman’s over Tyree’s every single day of the year.
Jules’ catch was just one out of many things that Patriots fans can celebrate for a long time. People will be talking about that one for years on end, respectfully. Every positive play in that fourth quarter comeback was absolutely crucial to immortality, and Edelman just happened to be in the middle of it all. I think that he’s the second most important Patriot, and time and time again, he proves just that. No matter how badly he performed in the previous three quarters or how many drops he had, you can always count on him to come through clutch when he has to. This time was no different.