HOUSTON -- Even Tom Brady had a hard time understanding that Julian Edelman had actually caught it.
Maybe it was the sheer improbability of his favorite target plucking the ball with his fingertips milliseconds before it hit the turf. Maybe it was because those types of catches typically work against the Patriots.
Whatever it was, Brady was as flabbergasted as anyone.
"Yeah, I couldn’t believe it," said the game's MVP. "It was one of the greatest catches. We’ve been on the other end of a few of those catches and tonight, you know, we came up with it. It was a pretty spectacular catch. He had a hell of a game."
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When it was mentioned to Edelman that Brady called it one of the best catches he's seen, Edelman cracked, "I think that's because of our bromance."
The importance of the catch was no joke, though.
It was the inverse of what David Tyree, Mario Manningham and Jermanie Kearse had done to the Patriots in Super Bowls past. It was a circus 23-yard gain that got the Patriots to the Atlanta 41-yard line with 2:28 remaining in regulation and the Patriots down, 28-20.
Falcons corner Robert Alford tipped Tom Brady's pass deep down the middle of the field, causing Edelman to dive and come back to the floating football. He angled off rookie safety Keanu Neal, and snared the ball just as it appeared it was about to hit the turf. Somehow, it never did, and the review was a relatively quick one.
"You may need a play or two like that to go your way in order to come out victorious," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said. "And Julian did a great job of staying focused on the ball and kept his hands underneath it, and that was a great play for us."
Edelman actually double-caught the football, making it even more remarkable that he was able to control it without the help of the ground beneath him. But he may have had a hand from Alford's foot, it appeared. The ball was for a brief instant wedged on Alford's ankle, keeping it up for grabs.
"I knew I had a good feel on it," Edelman said. "I didn't know if a piece of the ball was touching. I don't know what the dang rule is. No one knows what the rule is for a catch. I was like, 'I think I caught it. I'm pretty sure I caught it.' "
A deflection. A cleat. A bobble. You can't blame Edelman's teammates on the sidelines for thinking it landed before he controlled it.
"Honestly, I didn't he caught it," said Alan Branch. "I hate to say it. Malcolm was right there yelling that he got it, and I didn't think he got it. Once I saw that he actually caught it, I started going crazy. That's one of the better catches that I've seen. The concentration that he had just to track it down and put his hand up under it. He's an elite receiver in the league for a reason. There it is."
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. Brady handed to White, who had the game of his life, for an easy touchdown, and a two-point conversion to Amendola tied it.
Who knows if any of it happens without Edelman's catch that will be a staple on Super Bowl highlights for years to come.
"Man, that was the best catch that I've ever seen in person, hands down," said Dont'a Hightower. "I couldn't even tell. Julian The Incredible, that's what they call him. I'm so, so blessed for him to have that catch."