First impressions: Edelman circus catch highlights Patriots amazing comeback

First impressions: Edelman circus catch highlights Patriots amazing comeback

HOUSTON -- Here are some quick-hit impressions from the Patriots' incredible 34-28, come-from-behind victory in overtime over the Falcons in Super Bowl LI:


-- David Tyree, Mario Manningham, Jermanie Kearse . . . Julian Edelman. The Patriots finally had a circus catch go their way in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, and it could not have come at a better time. After a 20-yard completion to Danny Amendola, a 14-yard reception by James White and then a 7-yard catch by White, the Patriots were suddenly at the goal line after being sparked by Edelman's ridiculous grab. Brady handed to White, who had the game of his life, for an easy touchdown, and a two-point conversion to Amendola tied it. 

-- Are you kidding me? The Patriots were down 21-0 in the first half. They were down 28-3 at one point. The largest comeback in Super Bowl history was 10 points.

-- In overtime, Brady was masterful. He hit White for three catches that went for 13 yards. He hit Amendola for a 14-yard gain. Chris Hogan picked up 19. Edelman got 15 more. Brady threw incomplete to Martellus Bennett, but a pass-interference call put the Patriots at the one-yard line. After an incompletion on a fade to Bennett, Brady pitched to James White for the game-winning touchdown. 

-- White has been criticized throughout his pro career for an inability to fight through contact, criticism that has been brought to his attention, but he lowered his shoulder and dove for the goal line to give the Patriots their fifth Lombardi Trophy.

-- Dont'a Hightower, Trey Flowers and Chris Long came up with enormous plays to help give the Patriots an opportunity to come back. Hightower strip-sacked Matt Ryan, and Alan Branch fell on the football to prematurely put a stop to Atlanta's first drive of the final quarter. An Amendola touchdown made it a one-score game, 28-20. 

-- During the subsequent Falcons drive, Flowers sacked Ryan and Chris Long drew a hold to knock the Falcons out of field-goal range. Atlanta punted, which led to Brady's game-tying drive and Edelman's remarkable catch.

-- Tom Brady picked a bad time to throw his first-ever pick-six. Late in the second quarter, he dropped back to pass and attempted to hit Danny Amendola on a slant. The only problem was Falcons corner Robert Alford was reading Brady's eyes and undercut the route. Once Alford picked it, he had only Brady to beat for an 82-yard touchdown that made the score 21-0. Brady appeared to try to keep calm as he made his way to the bench, but eventually he chucked the pictures he was shown from the previous drive. 

-- Brady looked off throughout much of the second quarter after completing six of eight attempts for 68 yards in the first quarter. He was also sacked twice in the first 15 minutes, as the Falcons front proved it could give the Patriots problems even if sack leader Vic Beasley wasn't creating pressure.

-- In the second quarter, the Falcons made an obvious attempt to take away Brady's favorite target Julian Edelman, which seemed to help rattle the Patriots quarterback. Edelman was bracketed by linebacker Deion Jones and a corner at times, and on a third down in the middle of the second quarter, there were three Atlanta defenders in Edelman's vicinity. On that play, Brady was forced to go to James White, who was stopped short of a first down.

-- Facing consistent pressure, and with his No. 1 receiver taken away, Brady struggled. On his final offensive drive of the half, Brady missed a wide-open Edelman for a long gain, threw three yards behind Chris Hogan, was off-target to Edelman over the middle, and his screen to Martellus Bennett on third down went for a loss of three. The Patriots got a field goal from the series, but even after running their typica effective up-tempo offense, it was clear the Patriots had issues to iron out at halftime if they were to make the game competitive. 

-- The young interior of the Patriots offensive line had a difficult time with Falcons games up front throughout the first half. Oftentimes, Atlanta coach Dan Quinn's defense didn't need to bring extra bodies to pressure Brady. Shaq Mason was responsible for two quarterback hits and a sack in the first half, Joe Thuney appeared to be responsible for two pressures and a run-stuff, while David Andrews seemed to be the responsible party for two more run-stuffs. Left tackle Nate Solder was also responsible for a hit.

-- LeGarrette Blount's fumble at the Falcons 29-yard line early in the second quarter, recovered by Alford, was a momentum killer that eventually led to the first Falcons scoring drive. On that scoring drive, Matt Ryan worked his connection with Julio Jones for catches of 19 and 23 yards. On the touchdown play, Eric Rowe motioned to the middle of the field when Jones did. When Devin McCourty tried to push Rowe back out to the left boundary, Rowe barely moved. Ryan handed to Devonta Freeman at the five-yard line, and Freeman cut to the left side that Rowe had vacated and there was no one there to stop him. 

-- The Falcons offense had its way with the Patriots in the first half. Ryan completed 7 of 8 passes for 115 yards and a touchdown to tight end Austin Hooper, who beat Patrick Chung. Freeman ran for 71 yards on six carries, using his tremendous vision to cut back and find open running lanes against the Patriots defense. Stretch-run plays, a staple of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's offense, were particularly effective for Freeman, who exploded into openings when he found them and refused to be tackled easily.

-- As the Patriots attempted to come back, they broke out several gadget plays: Edelman attempted a pass to Dion Lewis that went incomplete; they tried an onside kick after White's touchdown in the third quarter that was unsuccessful, and they worked a trick return to start the fourth quarter where Edelman faked a catch to draw the Falcons coverage unit while Chung fielded it about 30 yards away near the sideline, but Atlanta was not fooled.

-- The Patriots threatened to take a chunk out of Atlanta's 28-9 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Brady was sacked twice by Grady Jarrett -- his second and third of the day, tying him for a Super Bowl record since 1982 -- to thwart the drive and force a field goal. Jarrett beat Marcus Cannon for one sack and then got by Mason for his second.

Report: Cam Fleming visiting the Cowboys

File Photo

Report: Cam Fleming visiting the Cowboys

There's one gigantic hole to fill on the Patriots offensive line.

Replacing Nate Solder is no easy task and it's not exactly clear how the Pats will yet.

NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport was first to report the Patriots would like to bring back Waddle or Fleming.

It now appears that one of the former backup tackle is taking a serious look elsewhere, according to Ian Rapoport. 

It's not the best offensive line free agency market this season, so the Pats may prefer to bring back a guy they are familar with.

If Fleming is off the board, Waddle still remains as an option for New England.



How the compensatory pick formula may impact Patriots free-agent calls

AP Photo

How the compensatory pick formula may impact Patriots free-agent calls

How highly do the Patriots value their mid-round draft picks? We'll find out as the run on NFL free agents continues this week. 

If Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio plan to make any signings from outside the organization, they'll have to factor into that decision what they will be giving up. Money and cap space matter . . . sure. But there is draft capital at stake.  

The Patriots are currently projected to land two third-round compensatory picks in 2019 after losing both Malcolm Butler and Nate Solder in free agency. There's real value there, and the decision-makers at One Patriot Place may be reluctant to give that up. 

Recent Patriots third-round picks include Derek Rivers, Tony Garcia, Joe Thuney, Jacoby Brissett, Vincent Valentine, Geneo Grissom, Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan. 


Before we get into how the Patriots might lose those third-round comp picks if they remain active in free-agency, it's worth noting how comp picks are assigned. 

The compensatory-pick formula the league uses has never been published, but we know the basics. It's based on free agents lost and free agents acquired in a given year by a particular team. The level of those players is taken into consideration -- based on salary, playing time and other factors -- and then picks are issued to teams who have lost more (or better) free agents than they acquired. Only free agents whose contracts have expired (not players who've been released) qualify for the compensatory-pick formula.'s Nick Korte is the best in the business when it comes to predicting how many picks teams will land based on their free-agent losses and acquisitions, and he has the Patriots down for two third-rounders in 2019 and nothing else. 

That may sound surprising given the Patriots lost Dion Lewis and Danny Amendola in addition to Butler and Solder, but that's the way the formula broke, according to Korte. The Adrian Clayborn signing (given a sixth-round value by OTC) cancelled out the Amendola loss (sixth-round value). The Matt Tobin signing (seventh-round value) cancelled out the Lewis loss (sixth-round value). And the Jeremy Hill signing (seventh-round value) cancelled out the Johnson Bademosi loss (sixth-round value). 

Why do Tobin and Hill cancel out Amendola and Lewis, despite being lower-value moves? Here's how OTC describes the process. (Free agents who qualify for the comp-pick formula are known as Compensatory Free Agents or CFAs.)

1. A CFA gained by a team cancels out the highest-valued available CFA lost that has the same round valuation of the CFA gained.

2. If there is no available CFA lost in the same round as the CFA gained, the CFA gained will instead cancel out the highest-available CFA lost with a lower round value.

3. A CFA gained will only cancel out a CFA lost with a higher draft order if there are no other CFAs lost available to cancel out. 

That final point is key. An example? The Seahawks recently signed CFA Jaron Brown, a seventh-round value. The only Seahawks "CFAs lost" available to cancel out the move were Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham, both fourth-round values. Even though there's a three-round difference between Brown and Richardson, per Korte's projections, those moves still will cancel each other out. 

With that in mind, the Patriots may want to tread lightly when it comes to signing free agents who will qualify toward the comp-pick formula. They could lose out on the third-rounders they've received for Solder and Butler even if they sign a lower-value free agent.

Players like Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro or Raiders linebacker NaVorro Bowman would count toward the comp-pick formula. Would their value to the team be such that losing a 2019 third-round pick wouldn't matter to the Patriots? Or would their comp-pick impact hurt their chances of being picked up in New England? My guess would be the latter. 

The good news for the Patriots is that re-signing their own players -- like offensive tackles LaAdrian Waddle and/or Cam Fleming -- doesn't impact the comp-pick setup. Neither does signing players who've been released, meaning the Patriots could theoretically make a splash by signing Ndamukong Suh or Eric Ebron and they'd retain their comp picks.

Given the Patriots made just four draft picks last year, and since comp picks can be traded now (that rule was changed last year), it would come as little surprise if retaining those picks weighed heavily on Belichick and Caserio's decisions as they move through the remainder of the offseason.