Patriots receiver Julian Edelman leaves the game with all sorts of accolades, as well as a boatload of memories. Here is one opinion on his top 10 moments.
10. His opening act: On a hot August night in 2009, with the world watching Tom Brady in his first preseason game back after his 2008 knee injury, it was the rookie out of Kent State who stole the show.
Edelman — who had been booed in training camp when he mishandled some punts — took one all the way back for a touchdown. After the play, NFL Films caught Bill Belichick sidling up to Wes Welker to see if Welker knew who Wally Pipp was. It would be a few more years before Edelman took over full time for Welker, but his first big moment was a doozy.
9. Playing defensive back: It’s important to note that in 2011, Edelman wasn’t “Julian Edelman, playoff hero” quite yet. At this stage of his career, he was a spare part, a widget that could be plugged in any number of ways.
And so, with the Patriots pulling guys off the street to play defensive back late that season, they asked him to suit up on defense. Edelman had a pair of quarterback hits and 18 tackles in the regular season, and wound up matched up against Baltimore wide receiver Anquan Boldin in the AFC title game.
8. The Birth of Minitron: The 2009 regular-season finale against the Texans saw Welker go down with a gruesome knee injury, but it provided the rookie Edelman with an opportunity to take a sizable step forward.
That afternoon, Edelman had 10 catches on 15 targets for 103 yards in the loss in Houston. It would take a few years before he evolved into a consistently elite receiver, but that contest provided a glimpse into what he was capable of accomplishing with Brady.
7. “If it goes, it goes”: The 2015 season was a grind for Edelman, who seemingly battled injuries all year. He ended up breaking his foot, but returned for the playoff opener against the Chiefs, saying he knew only one speed.
“I’m going to go full throttle regardless. If it goes, it goes,” Edelman said a few days before the playoff contest against Kansas City. “I’m kind of my worst enemy when it comes to that, trying to over-push things.”
Edelman ended up catching 10 passes for 100 yards in the 27-20 win over the Chiefs.
6. Crushing the Colts: Maybe one of the more underrated games of his career. A November 2012 rout of the Colts saw him finish with a team-high 47 rushing yards, five catches (on seven targets) for 58 yards and a touchdown, and a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown.
5. His farewell: Edelman wasn’t Edelman in 2020, but he did have one epic game in which he was able to wake up the echoes a final time. In Week 2 against the Seahawks, he caught eight passes (on 11 targets) for 179 yards in a 35-30 loss. (For the record, his last catch as a member of the Patriots came with two minutes to go in a blowout loss at the hands of the Niners, a 13-yard reception via Jarrett Stidham.)
4. Super Bowl LIII: On a night when offense was mostly an afterthought, Edelman was the most consistent option for Brady and New England. As the Patriots beat the Rams, Edelman finished with 10 catches (on 12 targets) for 141 yards, and the Super Bowl MVP award.
After the game, I asked then-teammate Cordarrelle Patterson for his thoughts on Edelman: “Nobody can [mess] with Jules in the slot, man. Nobody.” Only he didn’t say “mess.”
3. His broken-field run at the end of Super Bowl XLIX: The Patriots were down 10 with just under 11 minutes to go in regulation. It was third and 14, and Brady found Edelman over the middle. The receiver was cracked by Kam Chancellor, but didn’t go down, spinning and picking up extra yardage.
He probably should have gone to the blue tent afterward, but under the circumstances, this gotta have it catch remains one of the biggest moments of his career. (This one just barely wins out over the eventual game-winner, a 3-yard touchdown grab from Brady with 2:02 left in regulation.)
2. The Divisional Double Pass: Against the Ravens in the 2014 playoffs, New England was down 7 late in the third quarter when Brady hit Edelman with a quick pass to the left, and the former college quarterback found a streaking Danny Amendola down the sideline for the unlikeliest 51-yard playoff touchdown of the year.
I covered the Patriots on a regular basis from 2001 until 2018, and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard Gillette Stadium shake quite like it did after that trick play.
1. The fingertip catch against the Falcons in Super Bowl LI: Honestly, for anyone else, that touchdown pass against the Ravens would be No. 1. But two seasons later, he’d put the exclamation point on his career with one of the most memorable catches in Super Bowl history.
The Patriots were down 8 late in the fourth, and the offense needed to keep the drive alive. A ball down the middle for Edelman ricocheted into the air, but the receiver darted between a pair of Atlanta defenders and scooped the ball inches off the turf.
His absolute signature moment. He’s going to be signing that picture for the rest of his life.
Christopher Price can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at cpriceglobe.