It’s been a long time since Patriots fans saw Julian Edelman out on the field, and Saturday’s performance by both the veteran receiver and New England’s offense has suddenly turned the tide for a group that couldn’t do much of anything over the final three weeks of the season.
On Saturday against Kansas City, Edelman finished with 10 catches for 100-yards, the last of which came off a lucky bounce on a pass to Rob Gronkowski, with Edelman alertly snatching it out of the air for a game-clinching first-down reception. It was his second career postseason game with 100-yards receiving and put Tom Brady over 300 yards passing, his 9th career 300-yard postseason game, tying Peyton Manning for most all-time.
But the biggest difference was their overall performance, including their success on third down. Coming into the game, over their final three regular season games they converted just 12-of-40 (30%) on third down. On Saturday, they finished converting 6-of-12 for 50%, with that number being slightly skewed given that one of those third downs occurred on a kneel down by Brady to close out the game.
Overall, they finished Sunday with 17 passing first downs, with Edelman accounting for 7 of them. Brady was also 2-of-4 looking his way on third down with two first downs, and his presence overall seemed to really spread things out and made everyone more productive. Eight different receivers caught passes Saturday, with Edelman actually making the connection between Brady and Rob Gronkowski even better after the tight end was targeted eight times with seven receptions, including 2 touchdowns, the last of which was Gronkowski’s 8th career postseason receiving touchdown, setting a new franchise record and a new all-time NFL record for postseason receiving touchdowns by a tight end in NFL history.
Edelman was on the field at the end of the game and a couple of reports said that the receiver looked a little hobbled as he walked off and he was seen leaving the x-ray room following the win. However, he told reporters he feels good enough where he expects to be out there next week against their next opponent in the AFC Championship game and that’s good news for his teammates, who were glad to have him back.
“That guys’ got the heart of a lion,” said defensive captain Rob Ninkovich after the game. “I mean, he’s just never gonna give up on a play. I’ve been with him for a very long time now and I respect the way that he plays and how much he gives this team.”
“Tons of respect for #11 and happy that he was able to be out there doing his thing.”
The rest of New England likely agrees, and for now the Patriots should be glad to have an important piece of their offense back and the difference was obvious. It’s yet another reason why the outlook heading into next weekend should be pretty bright now that he’s back in the line-up.
Posted Under: Patriots News