The New England Patriots couldn't have asked for a better return. Wide receiver Julian Edelman collected 10 receptions for 100 yards, and he honestly should have had more.
Don't worry, the rust will be gone next week.
After going out in week 10 with a broken foot, Edelman had to fight his way back to the field in order to help his team move to the next round of the playoffs. Make no mistake- this team wouldn't have won without him.
"I think he's worked his tail off [to return]," quarterback Tom Brady said after the game. "He's always been one of the hardest workers, one of the hardest workers I've ever played with, one of the most determined young men that's on this team. And he's got as much heart as anybody. It's a serious injury to come back from, and to play the way that he did today was great."
So what does Edelman add to this offense? Let's have the players and coaches explain it.
"Well [in addition to Edelman], you get Danny Amendola, [Rob Gronkowski]," Chiefs head coach Andy Reid explained. "You've got three guys in there that are good players and there are certain combinations that you can do with [them] and they do a nice job with it. The last couple of games they had run the ball quite a little bit and this one here, they came out and threw almost every down in the first half. I'm not sure they ran it one or two times."
"When you get 11 [Edelman] back it makes things out there easier," fellow receiver Keshawn Martin said. "Not just for a couple players, but for everybody. You've got to worry about so many different players out there and it was a good job by everybody today."
"It changes everything,' team captain Matthew Slater noted. "Julian Edelman is a very unique player in this league and the things that he's able to do, inside and outside route running-wise, poses a lot problems."
Edelman changes everything and his impact was felt early on in the game with a huge third down conversion on the team's opening drive. The Patriots use Edelman all over the formation, in ways that no other player can. Amendola can't use the sideline like him. Brandon LaFell can't use the inside. Edelman can do it all and he offers a perfect combination with Gronkowski to either make a huge play, or to draw enough coverage to open up a passing lane for someone else.
"Julian is a good player," head coach Bill Belichick said. "He's a good route runner and he's good after the catch. He's a strong runner after the catch, can make yards on his own. The more of those guys you have out there the harder it is to defend."
The Patriots become more difficult to defend when Brady is able to release the ball in under two seconds, because that negates the opposing team's pass rush. Brady has been unable to operate at such a high speed with Edelman sidelined, but a little dose of Edelman made the entire offensive line look perfect.
Edelman's value is a wonderful mix of energy both on the field and on the sideline and he'll continue to produce for the rest of the season.
"I'm super proud of him," Gronkowski said. "The way he worked to get back, the way he worked to get ready for a playoff game. Obviously I've been through some injuries and I'm telling you it's just not easy to come back right in midseason and just have a performance like that. You've got to give him credit for all the hard work he put in to be ready and help this team."
Edelman deserves all the credit in the world. He's just saved the offense.