KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Julian Edelman nearly lost the AFC Championship Game for the New England Patriots on Sunday.
Then he helped them win it.
After a fourth-quarter miscue resulted in an interception that helped spur a Kansas City Chiefs comeback, Edelman came through with two of the game’s most important plays in overtime to power what proved to be the winning drive in a 37-31 victory at Arrowhead Stadium.
“I always preach you have to have a short memory, whether it is good or bad,” Edelman said after the game. “That was a bad play. I felt awful, but you have to move on.”
On the play in question, Edelman had what should have been an easy reception bounce off his hands and into the arms of Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen for an interception. Kansas City, which trailed 14-0 at halftime, scored two plays later to take its first lead of the night, 21-17.
“You look forward to the next time your number is called,” Edelman said, who also nearly committed a turnover on a Chiefs punt mere moments before Sorensen’s pick.
He’d get his shot at redemption.
During a furious finish that featured 31 combined points in the final eight minutes of regulation, Edelman hauled in a 20-yard catch on first-and-10 to help set up Rex Burkhead’s go-ahead touchdown run with less than a minute remaining.
Then, after the Chiefs got a field goal from Harrison Butker to tie the score and force overtime, Edelman converted two third-and-10s on the opening drive of the extra session, picking up 20 yards on the first and 15 on the second.
Following yet another third-and-10 conversion — this one on a 15-yard completion to Rob Gronkowski — Burkhead burst his way into the end zone again from 2 yards out to win the game and send the Patriots to Super Bowl LIII.
“Julian is a competitor,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “From his first playoff game against the Ravens (in 2009) to tonight, this guy gives you all he has every play, all the time. We all make mistakes out there — all plays we’d like to have back that aren’t perfect — but no one competes harder than Julian does, and he puts a lot into it. … He came through on a lot of big plays for us.”
Edelman, who led the Patriots with seven catches on 10 targets for 97 yards in the win, now will have a chance to compete in his fourth Super Bowl after missing last year’s with a torn ACL. The Patriots will take on the NFC champion Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, Feb. 3 in Atlanta.
“I didn’t get to go last year, so this is pretty awesome,” he said. “… We get to play in the last game of the year. This is what you play the game for. This was awesome.”
Thumbnail photo via Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports Images