On Friday night the NFL will continue their NFL 100 series, this time counting down the top 100 catches in NFL history. The Patriots are featured on the list four times – 2014 Rob Gronkowski's one-handed catch vs. Denver, 2007 Randy Moss vs. Miami, 2010 Randy Moss vs. NY Jets, and in Super Bowl 51 Julian Edelman's comeback-preserving catch mere centimeters from the turf.
There are some notable omissions from the list. Randy Moss' record-breaking grab against the Giants was one, but of course Moss' 2007 contained multiple options. Rob Gronkowski's fourth-down catch up the seam in the 2015 AFC Championship that almost helped force overtime against the Broncos. Gronk also had a huge game-changing catch against the Rams in Super Bowl 53, setting up the only touchdown score of the game.
The Patriots have been blessed with multiple "wow" catches over their now storied history and it's hard to choose just one. Is it the pure mechanics of the catch? The situation in which it came? How big of a game it was? There are plenty of factors to consider.
In this week's Samsonite Make Your Case, we ask what is the best catch in Patriots history?
Mike Dussault says...
Super Bowl 51 Julian Edelman
By now this play is firmly burned into every Patriots fan's brain but let's remember what the situation was when it occured. After falling into a 28-3 hole late in the third quarter of Super Bowl 51, the Patriots staged a furious comeback, pulling within eight points in the fourth quarter. After stopping the Falcons on the edge of field goal territory, New England got the ball back on their own 9-yard-line with 3:30 left.
The Patriots moved the ball out to their own 36 and with 2:38 Tom Brady fired a pass down the middle of the field that was deflected into the air by a Falcons defender. Three Falcons and one Patriot – Julian Edelman – dove for the ball as it descended toward the ground. Edelman snatched the ball out of midair, moments before it would hit the ground and fall incomplete. Slow motion captured the incredible effort of Edelman and it stunned a world-wide audience.
The catch set the Patriots up on Atlanta's 41 and four plays later they would score then convert a two-point play to tie the game and send it to overtime. It would take just nine plays until James White broke the goal line for the Super Bowl-winning score.
Edelman's catch came on the biggest stage at a critical moment, taking the team into opponent territory. It wasn't a dazzling aerial one-handed catch as many on the list were, but had its own unique flair because it came so close to hitting the ground. Edelman demonstrated incredible concentration to snap the ball up just before it fell dead.
Given the stage, the situation and the remarkable effort to adjust, dive for and catch a deflected ball while beating three Falcons for it make it the best catch in Patriots history for me.
Paul Perillo says ...
Gronk's grab against Denver in 2014
Answers to questions like this require a level of subjectivity. Are we looking for the most impactful catch or the most impressive in terms of skill? For me, it's all about the latter and that's why I chose Rob Gronkowski's remarkable one-handed grab against Denver in 2014.
In the big picture the Patriots trounced the Broncos, 43-21, so the 20-yard catch that set up the final touchdown wasn't the difference between winning and losing. But while the stakes weren't high, the degree of difficulty was off the charts and the skill required to make the catch was incredible.
Gronk was in traffic down the seam, as he always was, yet somehow reached back with his left hand and caught the ball almost behind his head while four Broncos converged on him near the goal line. The concentration and skill required to make such a play were astronomical, and unlike some deflections and bobbles there was no luck involved.
It was the greatest tight end of all time showing why he was almost unguarded in his prime. In terms of pure skill, it is the greatest catch in Patriots history.