It will likely be remembered as the defining play of Super Bowl LI.
Late in the fourth quarter, New England trailed Atlanta by eight points. Quarterback Tom Brady fired a pass deep across the middle to Julian Edelman, but a Falcons defender tipped the ball in the air. Edelman and three Atlanta players converged on the ball, which appeared destined to hit the turf. Somehow, amid a jumble of body parts, Edelman secured the ball barely an inch off the ground.
Replay review confirmed the reception and New England went to tie the score before eventually winning the game in overtime.
"I don't know how the hell he caught it," said a still-stunned Brady moments after the win.
The Patriots have been on the wrong end of such jaw-dropping catches in recent Super Bowls – David Tyree's one-handed/on-the-helmet grab in Super Bowl XLII, Mario Manningham's tip-toe sideline grab four years later, and Jermaine Kearse's on-his-back in XLIX, to be precise. For degree of difficulty, though, Edelman's may have topped them all.
Readers of Sports Illustrated seem to agree, at least, that it was the image from SB LI most worthy of being featured on the magazine's latest cover. A from-above perspective of the crucial catch freezes the moment when the ball is falling to the ground and Edelman is just beginning to secure it. At the top is the word "Miracle" in large letter, with "Catch, Comeback, Crown" in smaller font directly above.
Visitors to SI's Instagram account page helped editors select that image over five other photos from the game by "liking" Edelman's picture more than the rest.
"Jules loves Tom," Edelman's father, Frank, tells the cover story's author. "He loves everything about Tom, he wants to be like Tom. Tom is his hero."
Several other NFL players, past and present, are quoted in the Brady-centric recap of Super Bowl LI. The issue is available on newsstands beginning this Thursday, Feb. 9.