HOUSTON -- Crazy, circus catches have been a major storyline in recent Patriots Super Bowl history.
Sunday night at NRG Stadium that trend continued, as a Julian Edelman replay-needed grab helped the Patriots 25-point comeback and eventual first-ever Super Bowl overtime win to bring a fifth Lombardi Trophy back to Foxborough in the latest best-game-ever big game for Tom Brady's team.
Forget past miseries of David Tyree or Mario Manningham. Forget, even, a Julio Jones sensational sideline grab earlier in the fourth quarter of this Super Bowl battle appeared to put the Falcons in position to ice the game.
Nope this was a crazy catch with a happy ending in New England. With the Patriots having cut a 28-3 third-quarter deficit to 28-20, the defense forced a Falcons punt and took over at its own 9. Brady and a now-hot offense moved out to the 36.
The soon-to-be four-time Super Bowl MVP tried to hit Edelman crossing the field. The pass deflected off rookie Atlanta safety Keanu Neal and into the air, falling into a mess of bodies that included Edelman and multiple Falcons. Breath was held on both sidelines and throughout each team's global fandom.
When the dust settled, officials ruled Edelman had caught the ball after all, for 23 yards to the Falcons 41. It was both unbelievable and appropriate at the same time. Edelman had been slumping through a series of drops and incompletions. But with the Super Bowl on the line, as he's done in the past, he somehow hauled it in.
Replay review at the behest of Falcons coach Dan Quinn verified that Edelman had, indeed, made the unfathomable catch. The ball was clearly in his grip while also trapped against the leg of a Falcons defender, keeping it from hitting the ground.
"I knew I had it. I felt like I got it," Edelman recalled.
"I couldn't believe it," Brady said, noting history. "One of the greatest catches. We've been on the other end of those."
As Edelman himself would later point out, though, it would have meant nothing without what followed. Four plays later James White notched his second of three touchdowns on the night and Danny Amendola hauled in an ensuing two-point play to tie the game.
After winning the toss to open the first overtime in the 51-year history of the Super Bowl, Brady marched 75 yards in eight plays, concluding with a White 2-yard score for the win.
But it could have never happened without Edelman's interception-avoiding reception. Without Dont'a Hightower's strip sack of Matt Ryan early in the fourth quarter to set up a short-field touchdown drive.
There were so many plays by so many players. But Edelman's has to stand out in some way due to its improbability and replay beauty. And because it compared to past similar situations that went the other way and cost the Patriots a couple Super Bowl rings.
This one very much helped win a ring.
"I don't know," Edelman said behind a bearded smirk when asked if it was the best catch he's ever made. "It was only good if we won the game. Thankfully we won the game."
"One of the greatest catches I've ever seen," Brady added. "I don't know how he caught it. I don't think he does."
"Edelman's catch was an unbelievable play," Bill Belichick lauded, as he praised his entire team for the fight it showed over a 60-plus minute game, overcoming the early struggles.
Even Falcons defenders were left to nothing but giving Edelman his props.
"That was a great catch. It just shows his work ethic," Vic Beasley.
"He made a great catch," linebacker Deion Jones added, saying the Falcons were far from giving up. "I just felt like, 'next play, strap it on and let's go.'"
Quinn would not acknowledge the fact that the game, and the huge lead his team had, might be slipping away after the Edelman catch. But it was and it did.
The Patriots are Super Bowl champions yet again.
And this time the circus catch was on their side. Thanks to Edelman.