Julio Jones

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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Butler credits improved Patriots defense for 'playing smarter'

Butler credits improved Patriots defense for 'playing smarter'

FOXBORO -- As safety Duron Harmon emerged from the showers following the Patriots 23-7 win over the Falcons, he noticed a crowd gathered by his locker. As one of the captains of the team - and a man nicknamed by teammates as “The Voice” because of his ability to articulate the right words at the right time, the affable safety is a must listen postgame. But for a change, Harmon knew the mass gathering of media wasn’t there for him - at least not yet. We were there for Malcolm Butler, who had just played his best game of the season.

“You all want to talk to Malcolm?” Harmon sang. “I’d want to talk to Malcolm too.”

Devin McCourty got in on the act as well with some good-natured chirping in Butler’s direction. Both safeties were energized by the victory but also, it seemed, by the performance of a player they’ve come to rely on in games just like this. 

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“Awww man, Malcolm. . . Malcolm was great for us,” said Harmon later. “We need that.”

It's hard not to draw the parallel between Butler having his best performance of the season a week after making two of the biggest plays in the game against the Jets. He did all this while the man who indirectly caused so much of the 28-year old’s troubles - Stephon Gilmore - hasn’t been able to play because of a concussion. Meanwhile, an undrafted player in his 6th year, Johnson Bademosi, has emerged opposite Butler to play very sound football.

“Communication,” said Butler of the team’s defensive improvements. “Just playing smarter and better. That’s all.”

Butler himself didn’t want to spend much time analyzing his own performance. That’s usually not his thing. And it wasn’t as if that performance was perfect. Far from it. But Butler’s energy was evident right from the jump. He stuck his nose in there on running plays to his side, including a terrific submarine tackle of Tevin Coleman in the opening quarter. Butler also got his fair share of Julio Jones over the course of the night. Even though he surrendered that late touchdown to the Falcons wideout, he showed not only a willingness to play the big dog, but to go right at him. That is - after all - a Butler trademark. 

“Just competing,” said Butler. “Great player; you just got to compete.”

It’s not just competing, but it’s playing with confidence, something Butler said was an issue for him in the aftermath of his snap reduction in New Orleans. But now? That seems long gone and hard to find.

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