HOUSTON — The catch that Julian Edelman made with 3:30 left in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI was the football equivalent of almost spilling scalding hot coffee all over your computer, and then managing to keep the mug upright at the last minute. It was like opening your car door and realizing there’s a cyclist heading your way just in time to avoid door-ing them. Robert Alford tipped Tom Brady’s pass into the air while two other Falcons defenders encroached on Edelman. The ball landed on Alford’s leg, then Edelman caught it, a paper-thin margin separating it from the ground.
That play was the stuff of heart attacks, regardless of whether you were rooting for or against the Patriots — a moment of athletic prowess and some really good or bad luck. A roar erupted from the Patriots jersey-clad fans at NRG stadium as the challenge was overruled and the play call held. They clutched each other in disbelief as their team continued to gain the momentum that would ultimately allow them to come back from a 25-point deficit and win the 51st Super Bowl.
After the game, Patriots players were just as jazzed about the catch as fans were when it happened. They fielded questions about what Belichick said to them in the locker room at halftime and the Falcons’ offense with the typically vague answers athletes give at press conferences. But when asked about the catch, their faces lit up. They were clearly thrilled about the play itself, but they all seemed equally as thrilled that “Juls” was the one who executed it. Many compared it to the David Tyree catch in Super Bowl XLII that robbed the Patriots of their perfect season.
So, without further ado, here’s the oral history of Julian Edelman’s catch. With input from Edelman himself, of course.
Alan Branch: “Honestly, I didn’t think he caught it. You know, I’m not going back there yelling that he got it. And I didn’t think he got it, and once I saw that he actually caught it, I started going crazy. That was one of the better catches I’ve seen. That concentration that he had to track it down and put his hand up under it? He’s an elite receiver, an elite athlete for a reason.”
Patrick Chung: “Oh, [laughs] it was great, it took the air out of me a little bit. It’s a great catch, man. It’s a big time play, he’s a big time player, man, I love Juls. I came in with him and that’s my dude, so I’m happy for him.”
Chris Hogan: “Man, [laughs] I mean, that’s going to go down in history as one of the greatest Super Bowl catches, you know. I mean, Juls always makes plays for us, he’s a playmaker on our offense, and he’s a go-to guy. He found a way to catch that ball, I mean, it’s incredible. I watched it, I thought he caught it, so, you know, there’s not a doubt in my mind that he didn’t catch that ball. When I watched it live I thought he caught it.”
Rob Ninkovich: “Hah, wow, that was an amazing catch. Just the concentration, everything about it, he did a great job to get his hands underneath it, and it was an amazing play. One of many that got us to where we’re at right now.
Charlotte Wilder: “Did you feel it was a turning point?”
Rob Ninkovich: “I think Hightower’s sack fumble was the turning point.”
Danny Amendola: “Unbelievable [laughs] it was an awesome catch. I don’t know how he did it. Catch of the night!”
CW: “Was it a turning point?”
Amendola: “No question, it sparked the whole team. He’s a champ.”
Malcolm Mitchell: “Totally phenomenal. Julian is one of the best people I know, and obviously he’s one of the great Pats. He’s just been a leader the whole way. He gives me advice the entire way through. I thought he caught it. I’m a Pat, if he said he caught it, he caught it.”
LeGarrette Blount: “It was crazy, it was. I’ll probably never see a catch like that again.
CW: “Was it a turning point?”
Blount: “For sure, definitely. Juls always comes through and makes the play whenever we need it. He never fails, you know what I’m saying, he never fails. What we needed, no matter if it’s intentional, unintentional, he’s always going to make that play for us.”
Stephen Gostkowski: “It was insane, I mean, it was kind of reminiscent of the Tyree catch, and the guy from Seattle’s catch, and I’m glad that finally bounced our way this time. Julian’s the man. I mean, he’s an insane athlete, just the toughest competitor I’ve ever met.”
Chris Long: “It was like, you know, the funny thing is the first thing that popped into my head was Tyree, you know, as a fan of the game, and watching as a football player, that magic kind of reversed. And Julian’s such a great player, that’s where hard work and focus meets luck. And we deserved that luck, I think we deserved it. We work so hard and we’ve got great people.”
Dont’a Hightower: “That is the best catch that I’ve ever seen in person, hands down. I mean, I thought, I couldn’t even tell, but I was like he ain’t catch that. But that man’s incredible, man, Julian Incredible, that’s what they call him. I’m glad I’m so, so blessed for that catch.”
Julian Edelman: “You know, I made a decent play. I just tried to track [the ball] and hey, it was a bang-bang play. I knew I got it. I felt like I had it. I knew I had, like, a good feel on it. I didn’t know if any piece of the ball was touching but I — I didn’t know what the dang rule is, no one knows what the rule is for a catch is, but I was like, I think I got it, I’m pretty sure I got it.
“Then I was on to the next play. We had a lot more to do. I mean, we had to get a touchdown and a two-point conversion. ‘Dola made a big play coming up next, Sweet Feet [James White] made some big plays. Just a great, great, complementary game from all the guys. Malcolm, Hoges, just unbelievable.”