Patriots

Great Patriots Debate: Which Super Bowl 51 catch was better, Julian Edelman or Julio Jones?

Great Patriots Debate: Which Super Bowl 51 catch was better, Julian Edelman or Julio Jones?

It’s quiet time in the NFL. Everyone knows that. 

But the quiet only applies to breaking news (unless the Texans decide to randomly fire someone else and not replace him in the next few weeks). 

It’s never hard to generate a conversation that morphs into an argument that slips into name-calling and finally devolves into a wild speculation about the circumstances under which a person was conceived. 

You can rank the Top 40 quarterbacks in the NFL for instance. That may get some conversation started. 

Or, you can simply post a picture on social media of one of the all-time great catches in Super Bowl history and then let nature take its course. 

That’s what happened when my Twitter buddy Dov Kleiman posted a quick video of Julio Jones’ amazing sideline catch in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl 51.  

The coverage from Patriots corner Eric Rowe couldn’t have been better. The placement of the ball by Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan — probably nine feet in the air, moving at high speed and over the boundary — was pinpoint. And the catch had four elements — the leap/extension, the securing, the toe tap and the collision with the ground. 

It put Atlanta in position for the game-securing field goal. (Spoiler: That didn’t happen.)

The Jones catch was as good as it gets. 

But was it better than Julian Edelman’s catch which came a little more than two minutes later? 

It wasn’t long before someone replied to Dov with the contention that it wasn’t.

Like Jones’ catch, Edelman’s had multiple elements. 

The hash marks on an NFL field are 18 feet, six inches apart. Edelman is in the air above the right hash when the ball is tipped. He lands, gathers momentum, takes a sidestep and dives fully extended in the time the ball takes to drop to the ground, probably covering at least 10 feet. He wrestles the ball from a trio of Falcons defensive backs then — with the ball inches above the ground — releases it so he can secure his grip better. 

And it put the Patriots in position to continue a drive for the game-tying touchdown. (Spoiler 2.0: Happened.)

Which is the better catch? 

Jones’ was the more gracefully classic NFL catch, up there with Santonio Holmes’ Super Bowl-winning catch in 2008 in degree of difficulty. If it were Edelman on the receiving end of that throw and not Jones, I don’t think Edelman would have made it. 

But Edelman’s was the more improbable and bizarre catch. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a catch quite like it and that’s taking into account the Jermaine Kearse quintuple-touch catch near the end of SB49, Antonio Freeman’s “He did what?!” catch on Monday Night Football and myriad other double-tip catches. 

Edelman covered an insane amount of ground and only someone with the rarest of short-area quickness could have done what he did. Jones might have caught Brady’s pass outright but I don’t think he would have caught it after it was tipped as Edelman did. 

State your case for which catch was better. Show your work. 

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These stats highlight the Patriots' excellence protecting the quarterback

These stats highlight the Patriots' excellence protecting the quarterback

The pillars of any good offense in the NFL most likely involve good quarterback play, a solid offensive line and a scheme that maximizes the strengths of its skill players. 

The Patriots have checked all of those boxes for almost two decades, and it's helped them win six Super Bowl championships and nine conference titles. Tom Brady has been the constant for the entire run of dominance and the offensive line's ability to keep a clean pocket has helped him play into his age-42 season. 

According to Connor Price of Pro Football Focus, the Patriots have the fourth-fewest quarterback pressures (2,001) in the league over the last 10 years, trailing only the Bengals (1,786), Saints (1,945) and Titans (1,957). The league-average for the last 10 years is 2,025 quarterback pressures.

Not only that, but New England also sports the fourth-best pressure rate over that span as well (25.4 percent), behind Cincinnati, New Orleans and Pittsburgh with the league average hovering around 28 percent.   

The Patriots have consistently invested in their offensive line and have the masterful Dante Scarnecchia overseeing the unit, but Brady executing the team's offensive scheme to perfection goes a long way in these stats as well. 

What makes Brady so good, among many things, is his ability to understand opposing defense's tendencies and concepts. This allows him to dissect what's happening in front of him quicker than basically any other quarterback and hit his receivers before pass rushers can finish their moves. 

Without Rob Gronkowski going into this season and seemingly more weapons on the outside than normal, it will be interesting to see if the Patriots' offensive line can continue to keep the pocket clean for Brady if he targets more downfield throws. 

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Julian Edelman pumped for Patriots camp to begin: 'School's back in session'

Julian Edelman pumped for Patriots camp to begin: 'School's back in session'

Julian Edelman warmed up for training camp Saturday by putting on a clinic in near 100-degree heat.

The Patriots wide receiver helped conduct his football clinic for about 600 boys and girls at Lincoln-Sudbury High School about 40 minutes north of Foxboro. The Super Bowl MVP compared Pats camp, which begins Thursday at Gillette Stadium, to school being back in session.

“I’m extremely excited for the new year. This is a new team. Training camp coming up, this is kind of like when school’s back in session," Edelman told reporters. "We had summer break, [now] you get to see all the fellas. This is where you learn your team and learn each other and become accountable for each other and work hard together and create a consistency together."

The undisputed veteran of a Patriots receiving corps that is short on big names beside himself, Edelman, 33, is ready to mentor young receivers, such as first-round pick N'Keal Harry. 

“This is like the beginning shape form of your team, these next few weeks. It’s a crucial point. We put a lot of hard work in during the spring, and the next step to playing other teams, so it’s definitely exciting.”

With tight end Rob Gronkowski retired, Edelman takes center stage as Tom Brady's favorite target. He led all Pats receivers with 850 yards in the regular season despite an NFL-imposed PED suspension that kept him out of the first four games. His 10-catch, 141-yard performance against the Rams in Super Bowl 53 earned him game MVP honors.

Starting Thursday, he'll lead a receiver group that includes few familiar names: Phillip Dorsett returns, Braxton Berrios is back from the practice squad, Harry is a top draft pick and free-agent signees Demaryius Thomas, Dontrelle Inman and Maurice Harris are among those who've been added.