ATLANTA – Two weeks after keying the overtime drive to victory over the Chiefs to earn a spot in Super Bowl LIII, Julian Edelman came up clutch once again Sunday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to help bring a sixth Lombardi Trophy home to New England.
Edelman had game highs with 10 catches for 141 yards to take MVP honors in the Patriots 13-3 dogfight with Los Angeles. He and Rob Gronkowski – who also followed up a big AFC Championship Game with key catches once again, including a 29-yard fourth-quarter grab to set up Sony Michel's 2-yard touchdown – basically accounted for the entirety if the Patriots offense for three-plus quarters in a somewhat ugly game. New England's Michel-led ground game then closed the door on the Rams.
"It's surreal," Edelman said of the win and the MVP honor, a year after the Patriots lost a shootout to the Eagles to close the season. "It wasn't pretty, but I'll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day."
It was a remarkable conclusion to an impressive comeback season for Edelman, who missed all of last year to a torn ACL and then sat out the first four games of 2018 due to an NFL suspension. He finished the regular season second on the team with 74 catches for a team-best 850 yards with six touchdowns.
"Tough times don't last, tough people do," Edelman said. "I preach that and I have to live up to it."
He certainly did, helping Brady collect his record sixth Super Bowl ring in his record ninth trip to the game.
"What did I see in Julian?," Brady responded to a reporter afterwards. "I mean he just played the best game he has all year. So proud of him and what he's accomplished coming back from his ACL. He just fought it out, grinded it out just like everyone else."
Edelman now has 115 career postseason catches for 1,412 yards, second all-time only to Jerry Rice. He's proven time and time again in the postseason, especially Super Bowls, that the diminutive receiver can come up big in the biggest moments of the biggest games.
"He always does," Brady said. "He's a fighter, man, that kid. He's, I'm just so proud of him. He's been incredible for this team in the playoffs and he just cemented himself, again, in the history of the NFL, for what his accomplishments are."
"It's an honor to be put in the same sentence as Mr. Rice," Edelman said, later putting his huge performance in more humble perspective. "I was just trying to get open and catch the ball."
He did that from the get-go. Edelman finished the first half catching seven of the eight passes thrown his way for 93 yards as the Patriots went to the locker room with just a 3-0 advantage. Brady, who had a first-quarter interception and did not throw a touchdown, has created quite a bond together over the years with his close friend and top target. TB12 and JE11, as they call themselves, are more than so many defenses can handle. The Rams added their name to that long list in Super Bowl LIII.
"He's like a brother," Edelman said of his relationship and rapport with Brady. "It's an honor to play with a guy like that. He has six Super Bowls now. That's pretty insane."
Edelman became the seventh wide receiver to win the Super Bowl MVP award, joining the likes of Patriots Super Bowl XXXIX MVP Deion Branch and Rice.
While Edelman was helping carry the sluggish Patriots offense to the win, he was well aware that the victory could not have come without his defensive counterparts holding the Rams to a Super Bowl record-tying low of three points.
"The defense was insane to hold them to three points," Edelman said. "Pretty crazy. They should be the MVP."
While an argument could be made for that, the fact that the Patriots wouldn't have won Sunday night in Atlanta without Edelman is a certainty.
Like Brady, Bill Belichick has plenty of praise for his gritty pass-catcher.
"Julian always gives us those kinds of plays," Belichick said. Tough plays and tough catches. He did a tremendous job."
Sporting a Super Bowl Championship hat and t-shirt, facial expression hidden by his trademark bushy beard, Edelman summed up his historic MVP performance in pretty simple terms.
"It just feels great to win the game," Edelman said.
Patriot Nation certainly agrees.