Julian Edelman entered Sunday having last eclipsed 100 yards receiving in January’s divisional round against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Eleven months gone by, No. 11 hit the century mark once again.
Edelman caught eight passes for a team-high 101 yards as the New England Patriots handed the Los Angeles Rams a 26-10 defeat at Gillette Stadium. Outside of his acrobatic 32-yard grab on a deep cross opposite safety Maurice Alexander in the third quarter, however, the wideout’s performance was mostly lost in the shuffle of a momentous day for New England.
With members of the Super Bowl XXXVI team looking on, Tom Brady became NFL’s all-time leader with his 201st win as a starting quarterback while the Patriots notched their 14th consecutive 10-win season. LeGarrette Blount rushed for his 13th touchdown of the year to move within one of Curtis Martin’s franchise record. And on the other side, New England’s defense held the Rams to 25 first-half yards and finished with four sacks and two interceptions.
Plenty was left to discuss as time ran out. The eighth 100-yard game on Edelman’s resume wasn’t at the top of the priority list.
But his work was key. It was, for the most part, the same as it has been throughout the season. It was the same as it has been since the former seventh-round pick earned a starting role back in 2013.
“Julian made some really big catches, made some really big plays for us,” Brady said in his postgame press conference. “He's done a great job all year. We're going to need him to keep doing it.”
Edelman has only two touchdowns following a 2015 in which he set a career-best with seven through nine contests. Even so, he is quietly on pace for the second-most productive campaign of his career in terms of receptions, and the third-most productive in terms of receiving yards.
LAST FOUR SEASONS
2013: 105 catches, 1,056 yards, six touchdowns in 16 games
2014: 92 catches, 972 yards, four touchdowns in 14 games
2015: 61 catches, 692 yards, seven touchdowns in nine games
2016: 72 catches, 718 yards, two touchdowns in 12 games
The 30-year-old has not shown discernible signs of regression after undergoing a pair of procedures to repair his fractured right foot. The Patriots, now standing in wake of tight end Rob Gronkowski’s placement on injured reserve and fellow receiver Danny Amendola’s reported high-ankle sprain, would be hard-pressed to go forward if he had.
Edelman’s route-running has remained sudden. His fight for the football has remained violent. His open-field abandon, even on five-yard outs to the flat, has remained comparable to a squirrel dodging cars.
In the sum of those moving parts, Edelman has caught a team-leading 72 passes for 718 yards and 13 third-down conversions through 12 games. Running back James White, tight end Martellus Bennett and Amendola check in as the closest Patriots to him in those three categories, with 47 catches, 544 yards and 11 conversions, respectively.
Prolific may be too strong of a word to describe Edelman’s eighth go-round in the Foxborough; steady may be too weak of one. But while the highlight-reel plays have not been as frequent, his week-in, week-out plays of importance have continued to be.
The body of work over the past month serves as reinforcement.
LAST FOUR GAMES
Week 10: Seven catches, 99 yards, one touchdown
Week 11: Eight catches, 77 yards
Week 12: Eight catches, 83 yards
Week 13: Eight catches, 101 yards
Edelman has collected at least seven passes in seven of his appearances this season. He’s gained at least 60 yards a total of seven times as well. And as the Patriots enter the home stretch, the reality is that the 5-foot-10, 200-pound target finds himself on track to finish the 16-game slate with 96 catches, 957 yards and three scores.
Most wouldn’t think so.
When it’s something you’re accustomed to seeing, it’s that much easier to overlook.