FOXBORO — As Julian Edelman weaved through Colts defenders on his 68-yard punt return during the second quarter of the Patriots’ win on Sunday, the lyrics to ACDC’s “TNT” brought back thoughts of the rock band.
Edelman was a major reason behind the Patriots’ 59-24 blowout on Sunday. And if the Patriots’ offense was the dynamite behind the explosion, then Edelman was the spark that started it all.
“[I] had some opportunities to make some plays and was fortunate that it went my way today,” Edelman said after the win.
The 26-year-old served as the ultimate role player throughout the win, making an impact on special teams as well as in the passing game, and even in the rushing attack. Where Danny Woodhead left off last week, Edelman picked up on against the Colts. It’s as if the versatility chip just gets passed from player to player each week, and someone new gets to take the reins.
Edelman’s outburst, which just so happened to be mere days after the release of Deion Branch — quite the coincidence — adds some credence to Bill Belichick‘s unpopular attempt to get him more involved in the offense earlier this season. Even more importantly, though, Edelman offers yet another weapon to the Patriots’ already full arsenal on offense.
“I don’t know. I just do what the coaches tell me to do,” Edelman said. “[I] try to go out there and execute any situation that they put me in and that’s my job on the team — to do what the coaches ask me to do and help try to contribute in any kind of way.”
His speed can be deadly, as displayed by the touchdown return as well as a 47-yard end-around run on offense, which also marked the Patriots’ longest run on Sunday. His ability to gain yards after the catch is also very valuable, especially with tight end Aaron Hernandez still sidelined, as he caught five balls for 58 yards and a touchdown to add to his all-around effort on Sunday.
The young speedster has many useful assets that could allow the Patriots’ offense to thrive, including his ability to read coverages and make adjustments on the fly. That skill was on full display during both of his punt returns, which yielded 117 total yards, on Sunday.
Moments before Edelman’s epic touchdown return, Colts punter Pat McAfee booted a punt way over Edelman’s head for what would have been an un-returnable kick. Fortunately for the Patriots, an illegal procedure penalty forced a re-kick. Edelman, in his typical crafty way, took notes of the impressive punt and moved himself a few yards further downfield just in case.
The result of that adjustment proved vital. It gave Edelman a running start on the second attempt and allowed him to gain a full head of steam before reaching the first group of defenders. And that’s exactly the type of mentality and adjustments Edelman brings to the field on every play.
His production and smarts don’t go unnoticed, either. Belichick was impressed by Edelman’s performance against the Colts, and he didn’t shy away from dishing out some high praise for the performance.
“Julian had a couple big plays for us,” Belichick said. “He’s really worked hard to do everything to get back – the return game, passing game, slip screens, stuff like that, blocking. That was great. He had obviously a real productive day. We needed that.”
Edelman has only been on the field for seven of the Patriots’ 10 games this season. But after a three-week absence earlier in the year, he finally seems to be back to full health. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
With Hernandez still not back to 100 percent and Rob Gronkowski expected to miss 4-6 weeks with a broken forearm, Edelman should see more reps in the passing game and will be relied upon more heavily to help fill the gaps on offense.
He may not bring the talent that Gronk or Hernandez do, but Edelman is a special player and adds just another option to an already stacked offense.