Super Bowl 51 will go down in National Football League history as perhaps the greatest game ever played, and a miracle catch by New England wide receiver Julian Edelman was so important to the outcome that the seemingly impossible grab is already being hailed as the greatest catch ever in a Super Bowl.
The Patriots scored 31 unanswered points in 21 minutes of playing time to overcome a whopping 25-point deficit and defeat the Atlanta Falcons to win the NFL championship game on Sunday night at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas, by a final score of 31-28. The game ended in overtime, the first time a Super Bowl needed to go past 60 minutes to decide a champion.
But with the Patriots still trailing by eight points and just 2:28 remaining in regulation time, Patriots future Hall-of-fame quarterback Tom Brady threw a pass over the middle on a first-down play — only to see Atlanta’s fourth-year cornerback Robert Alford get his hands on the ball, nearly intercepting the pass. It would have been Alford’s second interception of the game, after he picked off Brady late in the second quarter.
Alford returned that earlier interception 82 yards for a touchdown. But on the fourth-quarter play, Alford could not hold on to the ball, batting it high into the air. Despite Alford and two other Falcons defenders diving to catch the ball, Edelman flew in to the scramble and somehow came up with the ball.
The six-foot, 198-pound Edelman has developed himself into one of the NFL’s top wide receivers over the course of his eight-year career, and a favorite target for Brady. But the 2009, seventh-round Patriots draft pick out of unheralded Kent State University in Ohio makes an unlikely candidate to go down in history by making one of the greatest catches any football fan has ever seen.
At Kent State, Edelman — a native of Redwood City, California — played quarterback, and also returned punts. But Patriots coach Bill Belichick made a project out of turning Edelman into a receiver, and after four-time All-Pro Wes Welker departed New England via free agency after the 2012 season, Edelman became a starter.
Relive the spectacular catch by the 30-year-old Edelman in the video below.
The play was challenged by Atlanta coach Dan Quinn, but as seen in the video above, replays clearly showed that through some amazing combination of reflexes, hand-eye coordination and blind luck, Edelman got his hands under the ball and gained control without allowing it to touch the ground.
“It’s one of the greatest catches I’ve ever seen,” Brady said at a post-game press conference. “I don’t know how he caught it. I don’t think he does either.”
Watch Atlanta defender Alford discuss his reaction to the incredible Edelman catch in the following video.
“I was actually right in front of him when he caught it,” added Patriots running back James White, who scored three touchdowns including the overtime game-winner. “I was pretty sure he caught it. It was a big play in the game. It seems like there is one of those catches in every Super Bowl. I’m just glad it went our way this time.”
“That is the best catch that I’ve ever seen in person, hands down,” Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who was watching from the sidelines, declared. “I thought, I couldn’t even tell, ‘Did he catch that?’ Incredible, man. Really incredible.”
Here’s Edelman himself discussing the catch and the Patriots’ stunning Super Bowl victory withe the ESPN crew of anchor Chris Berman, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young and retired New England Patriots receiver Randy Moss, in this video.
The Patriots will be celebrated in Boston, Massachusetts, on Tuesday with a duck boat parade starting at 11 a.m. Eastern Time.
[Featured Image By Ezra Shaw/Getty Images]