Nine years ago, the undefeated New England Patriots were undone by David Tyree’s remarkable “helmet catch” in Super Bowl XLII. Four years after that, the Giants did it to them again when Mario Manningham made an improbable grab down the sideline, costing them another Super Bowl. This year, they were paid back in spades when their own Julian Edelman made an incredible circus catch on a bobbling ball that kept the Pats’ hopes alive in their stunning, historic comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
With 2:28 remaining and the Patriots down, 28-20, QB Tom Brady fired a pass down the middle of the field to Edelman, who was not exactly open. Edelman had to come back for the pass, and dove into a scrum with Atlanta defenders Robert Alford and Keanu Neal. The ball rattled around between the three players, eventually ending up in Edelman’s grasp without touching the turf.
“I knew I had a good feel on it,” Edelman said after the game per CSNNE. “I didn’t know if a piece of the ball was touching. I don’t know what the dang rule is. No one knows what the rule is for a catch. I was like, ‘I think I caught it. I’m pretty sure I caught it.’ “
He did. The play was ruled a catch on the field and confirmed by the officials upon review. The Patriots would go on to tie the game and send it into overtime, where they would complete the greatest comeback victory in the history of the Super Bowl.
“You may need a play or two like that to go your way in order to come out victorious,” New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. “And Julian did a great job of staying focused on the ball and kept his hands underneath it, and that was a great play for us.”
Indeed. The Falcons had run roughshod over the Patriots in the first half, killing them with their speed on both sides of the ball. Brady was pestered and battered to the degree where his vaunted offense had only registered three lousy points by the time Lady Gaga flew in for her halftime show.
The second half told a different story, however. Atlanta not only folded, but disintegrated, allowing New England to rack up 31 unanswered point to wrest away the franchise’s first championship. The Pats’ put on a better show than Gaga with a smothering defense and hard-charging offense. The Falcons were relegated to bystander status and Edelman’s grab was the knockout blow.
Fate was on the Patriots’ side in Super Bowl LI although they had to wait awhile for it to arrive. Brady would pass for 466 yards and two TDs in securing his record fifth Super Bowl win and fourth Super Bowl MVP. But he knew luck played a role in the big win, just like it did in his two losses to the Giants.
“Yeah, I couldn’t believe it,” Brady said. “It was one of the greatest catches. We’ve been on the other end of a few of those catches and tonight, you know, we came up with it. It was a pretty spectacular catch. He had a hell of a game.”
A helluva game it was. For Pat haters, it evoked all the hard feelings that go with that. For football fans, they were treated to perhaps the best Super Bowl ever, and the first to ever be decided in overtime.
What may have been the most seminal moment was the awarding of the Lombardi Trophy to Patriots’ owner Robert Kraft by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, an awkward moment between two men who have been at odds over Goodell’s excessive punishment of Brady over the “Deflategate” scandal.
Goodell appeared genuine in his congratulatory comments to Brady, Kraft and Bill Belichick, but his presence on the podium drew a negative reaction from the Houston crowd. He got the message and bolted the ceremony seconds after handing over the trophy.