HOUSTON — You could say the Super Bowl owed ‘em one. Julian Edelman was the man to collect.
The Patriots receiver made a catch for both the highlight reels and the history books Sunday — a once-in-a-lifetime grab that pushed New England’s record-setting Super Bowl comeback into overdrive, and one every bit as amazing as what David Tyree of the Giants did nine years earlier to break all those Patriots’ hearts.
Edelman’s catch was the highlight of New England’s 91-yard drive that tied the game near the end of regulation on the way to a 34-28 overtime win over Atlanta.
Edelman somehow got his red-gloved hands pinned up against, and then underneath, a Tom Brady pass that bounced off Atlanta cornerback Robert Alford’s hands, hit off his knee, his shin. It almost fell to the turf.
Only it didn’t.
“I knew I caught it,” Edelman said. “I felt like I had it. I didn’t know if maybe a piece of the ball was touching. I don’t know what the dang rule is. Nobody knows what the rule is for a catch. I was like, ‘I’m pretty sure I caught it.’”
Review upheld the 23-yard reception, the video clearly showing Edelman first pinning the ball against Alford’s foot, then getting his hands underneath the pigskin as it bounced off the defender.
It gave New England the ball at the Atlanta 41 with 2:03 left in regulation. The rest of this game almost felt academic.
“Quite a competitor,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said of his do-everything receiver, who catches, runs, returns punts and, on this day, even threw one (incomplete) pass. “I think to win a game like that after falling behind by so much, you need a few plays like that.”
The Patriots, who trailed 28-3 in the third quarter, scored the last five times they had the ball, including on James White’s game-winning 2-yard run to cap an easy 75-yard drive on the first possession of overtime.
All that transformed Alford from a possible Super Bowl MVP into possibly the most unlucky guy on the Falcons. Late in the first half, he had a pick-6 on Brady that went 82 yards and gave Atlanta a 21-0 lead.
“At the end of the day, all you can control is what you can control,” Alford said. “I saw he made the play. I saw him come down with it. I saw my foot and the ball when he got his hands underneath it. Sometimes, there’s nothing more you can do.”
The catch helped Brady the Patriots capture title No. 5 — a number that would’ve been bigger had it not been for what the Giants did to them nine seasons ago.
Back then, it was Eli Manning somehow breaking away from a sack and heaving the ball downfield to Tyree, the near-forgotten receiver who somehow pinned the ball against his helmet and came down for the catch for a 32-yard gain that moved the ball to the New England 24. It was the highlight play of the game-winning drive that ended New England’s quest for an undefeated season and kept the Patriots stuck on three titles.
Four years after that, Mario Manningham made a tiptoe-on-the-sideline catch to start another game-winning drive for the Giants.
Then, two years ago, a falling Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse caught a ball that ricocheted off his thigh to give Seattle the ball at the 6-yard line within easy range of the late go-ahead touchdown. Malcolm Butler saved the game with an interception and New England held on for title No. 4.
No. 5 came courtesy of Edelman, who joined the Patriots two years after the first disappointment against the Giants.
He finished with five catches for 87 yards, including one that nobody will ever forget.
“One of the greatest catches I’ve ever seen,” Brady said. “We’ve been on the other side of that a few times before, and Julian came up huge on the other end of it. He had a helluva game.”