FOXBORO, Mass — Make no mistake, Julian Edelman’s 51-yard touchdown pass wasn’t just drawn up on the sideline, playground-style.
The play, in which Edelman hit fellow New England Patriots receiver Danny Amendola in stride for a tying score, has been in the making for years now. The Patriots practiced it over the summer in training camp, though reporters weren’t allowed to write about it, lest opposing teams know what the Patriots are drawing up.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady chucked a lateral to Edelman with 4:20 left in the third quarter with the Patriots trailing the Baltimore Ravens 28-21. Amendola faked a block, then kept running down the field and past Ravens defenders. Edelman, who initially thought he overthrew the pass, hit Amendola in stride with a perfect throw, which sparked a Patriots 35-31 comeback victory, vaulting them into the AFC Championship Game next Sunday.
Edelman, a college quarterback, and Amendola planted the seeds for the play way back when they met during the NFL lockout in 2011.
“Me and Julian have been practicing that for about five years,” Amendola said in the Patriots’ locker room after the divisional-round playoff win. “It was a play we had in the books for a little while now, but it ended up working out.”
Edelman joked that it was he and Amendola, not head coach Bill Belichick or offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who came up with the trick play.
“We would throw to each other on the beach, and we came up with that play over there I think,” Edelman said. “I was fully joking. I don’t know.”
Patriots fans have been waiting for Edelman to throw a pass since he was drafted in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL draft. The Patriots’ slow burn paid off to perfection, and they finally were able to break it out at a key moment, when the Patriots desperately needed a spark.
Edelman has been waiting even longer.
“Since I was about 8 years old,” Edelman said. “Felt pretty good.”
One would think that since Edelman was a starting quarterback for three seasons at Kent State, the Patriots would have this play in their arsenal and practice it frequently, but Edelman said the Patriots have only worked on it “probably like 12 times.”
Of course, when Brady is your quarterback, it takes a lot to let another player throw a pass. Amendola quickly answered that Brady throws a better deep ball than Edelman. Edelman wasn’t so quick to concur, however.
“He did show me up on that last one,” Edelman said about Brady’s go-ahead touchdown pass to Brandon LaFell in the fourth quarter. “I’ll give it to him. He’s all right, I guess.”
Brady might disagree, however.
“He throws it better than I did,” Brady said. “He spun it. It was a perfect spiral right in stride. I’ve gotta make some rules that he can’t throw it better than I can, but he did. It was pretty sweet.”
Thumbnail photo via Elise Amendola/Associated Press