By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
FOXBORO (CBS) — I distinctly remember the final day of the draft in 2009. Anyone who’s covered or even watched the sixth and seventh rounds of the NFL draft know that it’s mostly an exercise in getting through the day. The analysts on TV no longer break down the picks, and sometimes they don’t even mention the picks. The only way you know which pick was made comes from the networks playing a noise and showing a name that you don’t know at the bottom of the screen.
And so it was, in April of 2009, that the Patriots spent their penultimate pick — No. 232 overall, in the seventh round — on Julian Edelman. He was a quarterback at Kent State with some sketchy passing numbers, so the Patriots made sure to announce this draft pick as a receiver. It was a worthy experiment, a risk-free pick in the seventh round, but it was a decision by Bill Belichick that more than likely would end up being nothing more than afterthought.
Yet here we are, a decade later, talking about a man who ranks second all time in playoff receptions behind only Jerry Rice — the undisputed greatest receiver of all time.
It’s quite the story.
And, as I was going through some of the crazy records set Sunday by the Patriots, I couldn’t help but marvel at where Edelman ranks among the best postseason receivers of all time. As previously mentioned, he’s second all time in playoff receptions with 98. He’s tied for third all time for most 100-yard postseason receiving games with five. And he’s seventh all time in postseason receiving yards with 1,175 — and he’ll move up into fourth place if he picks up 80 yards next week.
And it all got me thinking: If Kurt Warner can be a Pro Football Hall of Famer almost exclusively for his work in the playoffs, then why can’t Julian Edelman?
Of course, that’s silly talk. Receivers don’t get the same benefit that quarterbacks do. But Warner, really, had one great season, one very good season, a couple of good seasons, and a bunch of mediocre-to-bad seasons. He was released by the Rams, and he lost his job in New York and Arizona. But, the man had some exceptional postseason runs, winning one Super Bowl and reaching two more. During those three runs, Warner threw 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, establishing his reputation as a big-game performer.
And that’s really the only reason he’s in the Hall of Fame. He ranks 40th on the all-time passing yards list, just ahead of Mark Brunell and Ryan Fitzpatrick. He’s tied with Kerry Collins for 38th on the all-time touchdowns list, just behind Joe Flacco and Matt Hasselbeck, and with 18 more touchdowns than Fitzpatrick.
As a regular-season QB, he was average. But he’s thrown the seventh-most playoff touchdowns, he’s 10th in playoff passing yards, and he owns the second-best passer rating in playoff history. That’s why the man wears a gold jacket.
If that can be the case for Warner, can’t it be the case for Edelman?
(By the way, Edelman has a 135.4 passer rating in the playoffs. NOT BAD.)
That is, of course, a pie in the sky question. It won’t ever happen. He’s tied for 148th in all-time receptions, he’s 248th in receiving yards, and his 30 touchdowns don’t even register on the all-time leaderboards.
But the man is immense in the playoffs, one of the most intense competitors in the sport’s biggest games. Sunday was the latest example of that. (And, unlike Warner, Edelman has actually won two Super Bowls.)
And so there really shouldn’t even be a debate. If Kurt Warner earned Hall of Fame entry for his postseason exploits, there’s no reason Edelman should not get the same benefit. Unfortunately for Edelman, the sun only shines on quarterbacks (NFL quarterbacks, that is, and not former college quarterbacks), so it won’t happen.
But it should.
Let’s move on to all of the leftover thoughts from the Patriots’ old-fashioned 41-28 butt whooping of the Los Angeles Chargers, a team I believed for a stretch to be the best team in the AFC. (Whoops!)
–We’re not going to dive too deep on the nitty-gritty of every play, because it’s not always exciting to delve into the details of a true railroading. But to me, what I consider the biggest play of the game (no hyperbole) came on the third snap.
After James Develin was caught off guard by a terrible opening kickoff by kickoff specialist Nick Rose (he stinks at kicking kickoffs — go figure), the Patriots started at their own 17-yard line. They faced an early third-and-3 from their own 24. Josh McDaniels wasted no time in dipping in to his bag of tricks to pull out a spectacular play to avoid having to punt on the opening possession.
It began with Edelman lined up in the backfield, like a halfback:
Edelman then motioned right, lining up between right tackle Marcus Cannon and tight end Rob Gronkowski:
Gronkowsi, being plenty strong enough, bulldozed his man up the field, thus creating interference on Edelman’s man and creating a massive pocket of open space for Edelman to run an out route and pick up the first down:
It was a beautiful play, and it worked. The Patriots then drove the length of the field on a near-perfect drive for a touchdown. Had they played it straightforward on that play and needed to punt? Who knows how the rest of the game plays out.
–I wrote a lot about Edelman to start this story, but if you were pressed for time after someone asked you “what’s Julian Edelman like?” then you could just go ahead and bring up this GIF:
If you had a few more seconds, you could show them the alternate angle:
Maybe that’s why we all talked about the weather playing a factor? I don’t know. But I do know that “Relentless” was a good title for Edelman’s book.
–That book was co-written by Tom E. Curran, and I must say, I thoroughly enjoyed the back-and-forth that Curran had with Philip Rivers after the game. It’s funny; on the field, Rivers is an absolute lunatic, barking and screaming and yelling and gesturing and overall looking as pissed as can be for 60 minutes at a time. But off the field, he’s composed, almost to the point of being reserved.
So, after Rivers spent most of Sunday afternoon melting down at every single non-call from the officials, Curran asked Rivers if his competitiveness led to frustration. Rivers said no way, no how. Couldn’t be possible. So Curran followed up: Would it be unfair to say that you showed a lack of composure?
Rivers got a little miffed.
Later, while answering a completely different question, Rivers came back to Curran to say this: “I do want to go back to your question about the composure because there was never a lack of composure, I think sometimes my demonstrative movements may look that way but I was just poised as could be. The whole time.”
Any time you have to tell a room full of people that you were “just poised as could be” after you completed 25 of your 51 passes … well, you probably weren’t.
–It was nice of the CBS broadcast to include a shot of Gus Bradley on the sidelines.
Based on the Chargers’ complete inability to adjust to anything the Patriots were doing, it was good to get some confirmation that the defensive coordinator was indeed present and accounted for. Not sure what he was doing, exactly. But he was there.
–Sony Michel? Not bad. Not bad at all.
The 40-yard run was great. He ripped through a tackling attempt of nose tackle Damion Square in the initial hole …
… and navigated blocks from David Andrews and Edelman into total daylight. But 129 yards and three touchdowns in a playoff debut? Not bad. Pretty good, even.
–You could look at the box score and determine that Rob Gronkowski is all washed up. You should do so at your own peril.
If Gronkowski really was checked out, or physically weakened, or any other thing that folks will be saying about him, then he would not have spent the afternoon shoving adult human beings all over the field in order to help the Patriots to an utterly dominant day on the ground.
The only person Gronkowski couldn’t handle in the run game was James Develin:
And while Gronkowski may be lacking that breakaway speed that made him the most dominant tight end to ever play the game for a stretch, the man still possesses immense power. IMMENSE power. Just look:
The guy can go from having no catches in the first half to instantly leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.
So, the days of 11 catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns may be over. But in terms of sheer physcality, Gronkowski’s pliable training methods have not hurt him a bit. And in short bursts, he can still be a Thor’s hammer in the passing game. (Just like he was late in the Chiefs game earlier this year, as you might recall.)
If that was indeed Gronkowski’s final game in Foxboro, it may not have been spectacular on the stat sheet. But don’t let that confuse you. It was a marvelously Gronk-esque performance.
–Speaking of old and washed up, if I may, I’d like to tell you a little secret. Anybody who told you that Brady looked old, or that his arm strength was lacking or that his accuracy was suffering or if he just wasn’t able to make the throws? Those people don’t know anything about football. And now you know that about them.
Thank you for your time.
–Sports are fun sometimes:
–One thing that will be interesting next week is how the Chiefs respond to a team that doesn’t spend the entire game just farting, like the Colts did.
The Colts jumped offside twice on third downs. Fart.
The Colts allowed not one, not two, but three fourth-and-1 conversions. Fart.
The Colts took a penalty for humping the air after a sack. Fart. (A sexy fart, but a fart nonetheless.)
The Colts missed a PAT and a 23-yard field goal. Fart. Fart.
Meanwhile, the Patriots were recovering muffed punts just inches from the sideline. They were executing on third down, and on fourth down. They made their kicks. They played a clean game, and they capitalized on their opponent’s miscues.
Again, presuming a little bit, the Patriots won’t put forth the Fart Fest that the Colts did. The Patriots should make it tougher on Kansas City next week.
And while the Chiefs are rightly favored, don’t discount these two facts: The Patriots beat the Chiefs this season (when the Chiefs had Kareem Hunt, no less), and the Patriots beat the Chargers, a team that beat the Chiefs in Kansas City.
It’s an uphill climb, no doubt. The Chiefs should be able to win the game. But there should be no doubt that the Patriots are more than capable of making it a tremendously difficult afternoon for the home team.
–As a head coach, Andy Reid is 1-4 in the conference championship round of the postseason. Thought you might be interested to know that.
–Going back to Edelman for a moment … that fella loves pain. The dude loves feeling pain. I wanted to ask him about that after the game, but the media scrum was too large for such conversations. But what other conclusion can we draw, other than to assume that Julian Edelman is not happy unless he feels pain?
That was in the second quarter, when it was still a football game. Accepting pain is understandable there. But this decision, late in the third quarter, with his team leading 38-14?
This fella loves to feel pain. I think that’s fair to surmise.
–Brady’s postgame comments to Tracy Wolfson generated quite a bit of buzz, because Brady never speaks candidly like that. But it does seem as though the Patriots collectively peeled back a layer of secrecy when asked about outside voices after this one.
Matthew Slater, in particular, seemed legitimately pissed off — sorry, I meant to say ticked off, because this is Matthew Slater we’re talking about — about those who have doubted or questioned the Patriots’ ability.
“I mean, we’re not a very talented team,” a sarcastic Slater said. “An aging team. So we have to play with a lot of effort.”
Gronkowski was asked about it, too.
“If you take it in, if you take it for motivation, that’s great. But other than that, you can’t let it get you down,” Gronkowski said. “You’ve just got to keep on preparing how you’ve prepared every week. But, we’ve been hearing things like that forever now for a few years. So, we just laugh at it, whatever they say, and we just keep moving forward.”
You can bet they’ll have their ears wide open in the coming days, hoping to hear some doubt about their chances in Kansas City.
–A minor thing here, but I also LOVED the timeout tit-for-tat that Anthony Lynn and Bill Belichick exchanged late in the first half. Just inside the two-minute warning, with the Patriots leading 28-7, Lynn called a timeout after a Phillip Dorsett catch set up the Patriots with a first-and-goal from the 5-yard line. Despite the score, Lynn wanted the ball back before haftime.
He got the ball back, thanks to Sony Michel plowing in from the 5 for a touchdown. And on the first play of the ensuing Chargers possession, the Patriots sacked Rivers.
Belichick called timeout.
It was 35-7.
Had Lynn not called a timeout on the previous drive, maybe Belichick would have shown some mercy. Then again, maybe he wouldn’t have.
The Chargers ended up punting to the Patriots with a minute left on the clock. The Patriots would have put a field goal on the board, but Dorsett’s forward progress was ruled to have been stopped in bounds, thus draining the final seconds off the clock.
–So, it’s AFC championship week, and you’ll hear a lot of lamenting over the Miami Miracle. Understandable, of course. The Patriots would be chilling at home next weekend if not for that awful play.
But, really, there’s no use crying over spilled milk. What happened has already happened, and it happened for a reason. Yes, you’d likely prefer the Patriots to be an excellent football team at all times. But simply put, they were not a superior football team from wire to wire the way we’re accustomed to seeing. They were at times great, they were at times good, and they were at times very bad.
The Patriots would be hosting this game if not for the Miracle in Miami. The Patriots should be hosting this game.
But the fact is that they’re not. Because they are who they are. And that identity has them as a team that dominated at home but struggled mightily on the road. As a result, they’ll face the ultimate test next weekend — and it’ll come with the ultimate reward.
I don’t know about you … but I plan on watching.