Julian Edelman let out any energy he had left Wednesday as he stood atop a Duck Boat and put on a show for fans in the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl parade.
Edelman turned in a cliche-inducing performance in Super Bowl XLIX three days earlier.
It was gritty, plucky, gutty, gutsy and feisty. He gave 110 percent and left it all out on the field.
But seriously. He did.
Edelman probably deserved the Super Bowl XLIX MVP. Unfortunately for the New England Patriots wide receiver, Tom Brady deserved it too, and in nearly all cases, the current quarterback will win the award over some former college QB.
Edelman’s Super Bowl performance can’t be forgotten, though. It was historic. It was all-time.
Edelman said last month that he’s dreamed of playing in a Super Bowl since he watched his older brother play Pop Warner. Edelman then clawed and fought his way for nine catches, 109 yards, a touchdown and a touchdown-saving tackle in the Patriots’ 28-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks. He also returned three punts for 27 yards and took the hardest non-concussion-causing hit from Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor that I’ve ever seen.
To borrow an Edelman phrase, he put on the hard hat, brought the lunch pail and went to work.
The Patriots needed Edelman to have the game of his life. Credit has been given to cornerback Malcolm Butler for his last-minute interception, Brady for his final two drives and Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell for deciding to pass with 20 seconds left at the 1-yard line, but take Edelman out of the equation, and the Patriots lose. Edelman was the perfect player to get open on the Seahawks’ big, clunky, talented cornerbacks with underneath routes, and they needed his quickness and toughness to pick up extra yardage.
Let’s go through Edelman’s game:
He started by beating cornerback Byron Maxwell on a comeback route, then immediately got in his head with some trash talk.
Three plays later, the Patriots were facing third and 3, and Edelman successfully picked 246-pound linebacker K.J. Wright to help tight end Rob Gronkowski get a first down.
Brady threw a boneheaded interception later in the same drive, and Edelman initially whiffed when trying to tackle cornerback Jeremy Lane. He then recovered, tracked down Lane again and made the tackle.
If he didn’t make that second effort? Lane was gone.
That was a lot of open space. Right guard Ryan Wendell was the closest player, and even with a good angle, he wouldn’t have caught Lane. A touchdown by the Seahawks that early in the game could have been back-breaking.
Lane, the Seahawks’ starting slot cornerback, broke his arm landing after Edelman’s tackle. That forced second-year pro Tharold Simon into the game, who was burned by Brady repeatedly.
Edelman’s next catch was a 23-yarder that ended with a 3-yard dive through Maxwell and safety Earl Thomas.
Edelman spun off of his own teammate later in the second quarter and broke a tackle on his way to an 11-yard punt return.
Edelman showed off his versatility with a jet sweep that has been effective all season. On this one, he breaks two tackles and scampers out of bounds for 7 yards.
In the second half, Edelman ran a slant and caught a short pass from Brady. This would be an 8-yard gain for almost any other receiver in the NFL, but Edelman decided to barrel through three Seahawks defenders for 3 extra yards.
Down 24-14 in the fourth quarter, Edelman was absolutely walloped by Chancellor on a hit that initially looked concussion-causing and helmet-to-helmet. There are five angles of this play, and it appears that Edelman was simultaneously hit in the shoulder and in the bottom-side of the head.
It was a hit that many receivers would have alligator-armed to prevent from getting killed, or would have caused them to drop the ball on impact. The Patriots were facing third and 14 and absolutely needed to convert to win the title.
Not only did Edelman get obliterated, but he also tried to fight for more yardage, putting himself in the position to get hit again.
Edelman reportedly passed concussion tests on the sideline after the Patriots’ drive. He stood up from the play like someone who was injured and worn out, but not necessarily concussed. He was wobbly but didn’t look dizzy. After the game, Edelman seemed exhausted but coherent. He’s also been traveling and partying non-stop for four days straight now, and was with-it enough Wednesday to run around the Patriots’ parade like an madman.
That Edelman didn’t drop like a ton of bricks on the hit certainly displays his toughness, but it also shows that trait should be looked at as a skill. Many receivers probably would have been knocked unconscious by Chancellor’s hit (which should have been flagged, since he launched against a defenseless receiver) at no fault of their own. Hard hits to the head cause concussions and unconsciousness. So, either Edelman knows how to brace for hits better than other receivers, or he was born with the ability to withstand those kinds of hits.
If the 2014 version of Wes Welker was hit identically, then he probably would have broken in half. Edelman tried to gain yards after the catch.
Edelman was healthy enough two minutes later to pick up another first down on third and 8. The amount of pain Edelman was experiencing at this point is obvious based on how he had to peel himself off of the University of Phoenix Stadium turf.
A play later, Edelman broke Simon’s ankles with a sharp cut on a return route and would have scored a touchdown if Brady’s pass wasn’t overthrown. He then stayed laying on the turf for six seconds.
After fellow wideout Danny Amendola caught a touchdown on the next play, and Edelman underwent concussion tests on the sideline, he came back out on the field after the Patriots’ defense forced a three-and-out.
Edelman ran a slant and picked up 5 extra yards by ducking and dodging Seahawks defenders.
Edelman’s most important catch of the season was the Patriots’ go-ahead score with just over two minutes left in the game. He ran the same route against Simon that worked a drive earlier, except this time Brady’s pass was perfect, and Edelman gained separation with a well-timed and inconspicuous push-off.
Everyone knows what happened after that: the Jermaine Kearse play, followed by the Butler interception, then a kneel-down, a brawl, another kneel-down and Patriots-colored confetti falling from the sky.
Edelman’s performance probably won’t go down in history because Brady won the MVP and Butler’s interception overshadowed anything else that happened in the game. It showed why Edelman is so indispensable to the Patriots, though, and why anyone who thinks Edelman only produces because of Brady is insane.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images