Some pain, all gain: Julian Edelman delivers for Patriots in win over Cowboys

Some pain, all gain: Julian Edelman delivers for Patriots in win over Cowboys

FOXBORO – The “putting on the shirt” portion of Julian Edelman’s postgame routine looked anything but routine.

His left arm, it wasn’t moving so good.

That’s thanks to the shoulder injury he sustained at some point during this season when he’s carried the bulk of the Patriots offensive burden on his 33-year-old back – 112 targets, 76 catches, 809 yards and four touchdowns.

I asked him after the game how he’s feeling.

“I feel, ya know, hey. It’s November,” he explained. “Everybody feels a little banged up.

To put in perspective how much Edelman’s meant to the Patriots offense, the team’s three top running backs – Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead – have combined for 880 yards rushing through 11 games. In the passing game, White is second in receptions with 49. Phillip Dorsett is third with 26. The tight end position has contributed 24 catches through 11 games.

On Sunday, the Patriots were without Dorsett (concussion) and Mohamed Sanu (ankle). White had one catch. He lost 6 yards on it. Rex Burkhead had two catches for 14 yards. The tight ends were represented by Matt LaCosse’s one catch for 5 yards.

Edelman’s been a one-man gang and he did his damage to the Cowboys on Sunday – 12 targets, eight catches, 93-yards – with one arm. The difficulty he had getting his arm up was obvious. Any throw above his chest, he tried to cradle with a backhand stab. Anything he could slide to pull in, he was fine.

There were a few of those and they were critical. Not because they resulted in points. For the Patriots, this game wasn’t as much about scoring points, necessarily, as it was about continually making it hard on the Cowboys to get in position to make a run. It was about field position and Edelman helped them tilt the field significantly on two plays in particular.

The first was a third-and-20 from their own 29 early in the second half. The Patriots, leading 10-6, had gone three-and-out on their first drive after the break. After a Shaq Mason hold, they looked like they were about to do it again.

But when the Patriots really needed a conversion – and the yards that came with it – Tom Brady bought time until Edelman uncovered and delivered a dart to Edelman right at the line to gain where he made a sliding catch for the first down. Three plays later, the Patriots punted and the Cowboys were taking over at their 28.

And three plays later, when the Cowboys were facing fourth-and-1 at their own 37? Dallas punted. Even though they have the highest-paid back in football. Even though the New England offense was struggling mightily. It was a juncture that begged for boldness. Dallas kicked.

Edelman’s other big catch came soon after Dallas closed to 13-9 with 6:08 remaining. The Patriots needed to bleed the clock and get out of their own end of the field. On a second-and-10  with 4:52 left, Edelman got free down the right side and hauled in a pass that turned into the dagger – a 23-yard sliding catch that put New England at the Dallas 41. Three plays later, Jake Bailey punted and the Cowboys took over at their own 8 with 2:38 left.

They weren’t going any 92 yards to score a touchdown on this day when the weather had unnerved them and their head coach was turtling.

Some teams have the belly for dealing with adversity. Most don’t. The Patriots have it in spades. Annually.

“That’s who we strive to be is a mentally and physically tough team,” said Edelman. “Our coaches do a great job preparing is. That’s part of them doing what they do. Bringing in guys that can play. I think it also comes from practice. When we have good weeks of practice, good things happen, it usually translates. It doesn’t’ necessarily translate as much as you want it to but you see little things here and little things there.”

One of the little things, actually a big thing is preparing to deal with the heinous weather both teams were playing in.

Asked if the weather was an advantage, Edelman smiled.

“I don’t think we like playing in it,” he corrected. “I’d rather play in snow. It’s tough when it’s wet and cold and slick but we do practice in the elements. We live in New England and around here … I saw a referee with some suntan lotion on his nose out there today and I said, ‘Buddy, we haven’t seen the sun in a month.’ “

In short, you get used to being uncomfortable. And you deliver anyway.

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Patriots rumors: Latest buzz on free agents Devin McCourty, Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy

Patriots rumors: Latest buzz on free agents Devin McCourty, Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy

Tom Brady isn't the only important free agent the New England Patriots have to consider re-signing this offseason.

The strength of the Patriots in 2019 was their defense, and several valuable members of that unit have expiring contracts. Among that group are linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, as well as safety Devin McCourty.

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Here are the latest updates on those three Patriots free agents with a few weeks to go before the market opens.

Devin McCourty
McCourty is the fifth-longest tenured Patriots player behind Brady, kicker Stephen Gostkowski, wide receiver Julian Edelman and special teams ace Matthew Slater. He's been one of the team's best players and leaders since he was selected in the first round of the 2010 draft. McCourty's five-year, $47.5 million contract is about to expire, and even though he's 32 years old, his talent is still impressive. 

Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald reported Thursday "the understanding is the Patriots want the veteran safety back."

McCourty has not missed a game since the 2014 season. He tallied 58 total tackles, two forced fumbles (one recovery) and seven passes defensed last season. His five interceptions were tied for the second-most in the league. The Patriots secondary ranked among the league's best in the 2019 campaign and held opposing quarterbacks to a league-low 56.5 completion percentage. McCourty played an important role in that success, and the Pats would be wise to bring him back.

Kyle Van Noy
The Patriots acquiring Kyle Van Noy and a seventh-round draft pick from the Detroit Lions in exchange for a sixth-round pick in October of 2016 turned out to be one of their best trades in recent memory. Van Noy has been a fixture of New England's linebacker group since his arrival, and he's helped the team win two Super Bowl titles over that span.

USA TODAY Sports' Henry McKenna reported Thursday that Van Noy's camp and the Patriots aren't scheduled to meet this week.

Van Noy tallied 56 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, three forced fumbles (two recoveries), three passes defensed and a touchdown last season. He's also been pretty durable with zero games missed due to injury since 2017.

If Van Noy hits the open market, he'll be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.

Jamie Collins
Collins returned to the Patriots last season after a disappointing two-year run with the Cleveland Browns, and the veteran linebacker re-established himself as a top-tier player in Bill Belichick's defense.

The Boston Globe's Jim McBride tweeted Thursday that Collins "is expected to have many suitors." This isn't surprising given how well Collins played in 2019.

Collins led the Patriots defense in total tackles (81) and sacks (seven) last season, while also tallying three forced fumbles (one recovery), seven passes defensed, one touchdown and a career-high three interceptions.

Curran: What happens when the GOAT feels like a lame duck?

Patriots told Vanderbilt tight end Jared Pinkney he had 'loser's mentality' in combine interview

Patriots told Vanderbilt tight end Jared Pinkney he had 'loser's mentality' in combine interview

Under Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots have created a very defined culture. They don't deal with nonsense and players they pick often have specific traits and ways of thinking that fit their winning culture.

And Vanderbilt tight end Jared Pinkney found out about this the hard way at the 2020 NFL Combine.

The NFL hopeful described his meeting with the Patriots during the combine and spoke of their dedication to culture and how one wrong answer made the team say that Pinkney's response was "a loser's mentality."

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“It’s interesting, because [with] a team that’s been winning for as long as they have, you expect them to come in with a certain mentality and to share that mentality and to spread it and impart it on you,” Pinkney said, per NESN's Zack Cox. “And that’s exactly what happened. I gave a kind of wonky answer, and it was like, ‘No, that’s a loser’s mentality.’ And I was like, ‘OK, my bad.’ [raises hands] They were like, ‘You need to be like this and that and that,’ and I was like, ‘Yes, sir. I’m better.’ ”

That had to be an uncomfortable moment for Pinkney, but he surely isn't the first prospect to have something like that happen to him at the combine. And that was just one of the responses he gave during his session with the team, so he probably did fine overall.

It's no surprise that the Patriots interviewed Pinkey, who our own Phil Perry identified as a Prototypical Patriot to watch in the Senior Bowl. And the Patriots are looking to add some talent at tight end, as they got little to no production out of their triage of Matt LaCosse, Ben Watson, and Ryan Izzo last season and never properly replaced Rob Gronkowski after his retirement during the 2019 offseason.

Pinkney (6-foot-4, 257 pounds) had 20 catches for 223 yards and two touchdowns as a senior. His most productive collegiate season came as a junior in 2018 when he grabbed 50 passes for 774 yards and seven touchdowns.