They owed ’em one: Julian Edelman collects on crazy catch for Patriots

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HOUSTON (AP) You could say the Super Bowl owed `em one. Julian Edelman was the man to collect.

The Patriots receiver made a catch for both the highlight reels and the history books Sunday – a once-in-a-lifetime grab that pushed New England’s record-setting Super Bowl comeback into overdrive, and one every bit as amazing as what David Tyree of the Giants did nine years earlier to break all those Patriots’ hearts.

Edelman’s catch was the highlight of New England’s 91-yard drive that tied the game near the end of regulation on the way to a 34-28 overtime win over Atlanta.

Edelman somehow got his red-gloved hands pinned up against, and then underneath, a Tom Brady pass that bounced off Atlanta cornerback Robert Alford’s hands, hit off his knee, his shin. It almost fell to the turf.

Only it didn’t.

“I knew I caught it,” Edelman said. “I felt like I had it. I didn’t know if maybe a piece of the ball was touching. I don’t know what the dang rule is. Nobody knows what the rule is for a catch. I was like, `I’m pretty sure I caught it.'”

Review upheld the 23-yard reception, the video clearly showing Edelman first pinning the ball against Alford’s foot, then getting his hands underneath the pigskin as it bounced off the defender.

It gave New England the ball at the Atlanta 41 with 2:03 left in regulation. The rest of this game almost felt academic.

“Quite a competitor,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said of his do-everything receiver, who catches, runs, returns punts and, on this day, even threw one (incomplete) pass. “I think to win a game like that after falling behind by so much, you need a few plays like that.”

The Patriots, who trailed 28-3 in the third quarter, scored the last five times they had the ball, including on James White’s game-winning 2-yard run to cap an easy 75-yard drive on the first possession of overtime.

All that transformed Alford from a possible Super Bowl MVP into possibly the most unlucky guy on the Falcons. Late in the first half, he had a pick-6 on Brady that went 82 yards and gave Atlanta a 21-0 lead.

Then this.

“At the end of the day, all you can control is what you can control,” Alford said. “I saw he made the play. I saw him come down with it. I saw my foot and the ball when he got his hands underneath it. Sometimes, there’s nothing more you can do.”

The catch helped Brady the Patriots capture title No. 5 – a number that would’ve been bigger had it not been for what the Giants did to them nine seasons ago.

Back then, it was Eli Manning somehow breaking away from a sack and heaving the ball downfield to Tyree, the near-forgotten receiver who somehow pinned the ball against his helmet and came down for the catch for a 32-yard gain that moved the ball to the New England 24. It was the highlight play of the game-winning drive that ended New England’s quest for an undefeated season and kept the Patriots stuck on three titles.

Four years after that, Mario Manningham made a tiptoe-on-the-sideline catch to start another game-winning drive for the Giants.

Then, two years ago, a falling Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse caught a ball that ricocheted off his thigh to give Seattle the ball at the 6-yard line within easy range of the late go-ahead touchdown. Malcolm Butler saved the game with an interception and New England held on for title No. 4.

No. 5 came courtesy of Edelman, who joined the Patriots two years after the first disappointment against the Giants.

He finished with five catches for 87 yards, including one nobody will ever forget.

“One of the greatest catches I’ve ever seen,” Brady said. “We’ve been on the other side of that a few times before, and Julian came up huge on the other end of it. He had a helluva game.”

Drew Brees, Le’Veon Bell Favorites in NFL Season Leader Props

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When it comes to betting props on NFL individual leaders, the tried-and-true works for picking a passing yards leader while rushing and receiving leaders are a little more random.

With training camps set to open in a matter of days, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a +300 favorite to lead the NFL in passing yards at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Brees has led (or co-led) the NFL in aerial yards five times in the last six seasons, with the lone exception coming in 2013 when Peyton Manning complied a NFL-record 5,477.

Brees will still have Willie Snead and Michael Thomas as outlets for his passes and, assuming the Saints’ defense stays near the bottom of the league, will have the opportunity to get into a few offensive shootouts.

The Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan (+400) and New England Patriots’ Tom Brady (+500) are the next two on the board. Ryan and the Falcons are likely to face a tougher schedule than what it turned out they had in 2016. Brady has only led the NFL in yards once, in 2007, and would be the oldest player to do so if he succeeds this season.

Based on 2016 won-loss records, the Indianapolis Colts and QB Andrew Luck (+1400) have the easiest schedule in the league, which could lead to Luck putting up some big numbers against softer competition. Another valid darkhorse play is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston (+1600), since he will have a 1-2 punch at receiver with Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson and a team that still relies on being pass-heavy.

The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Le’Veon Bell (+300) and Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott (+350) are tightly bunched atop the NFL rushing champion futures board. Bell will no doubt be among the leaders in yards from scrimmage per game, but he’s only played 16 games once in four seasons. While there hasn’t been a back-to-back rushing leader in 10 years, Elliott will be running behind an excellent Dallas offensive line.

The Los Angeles Rams’ third-year workhorse Todd Gurley (+2000) will be in a new offensive system and, hopefully for the Rams, will be better complemented by second-year QB Jared Goff in the passing phase. That would give Gurley a fairer shot at breaking big runs on the regular.

Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown (+400) and Atlanta’s Julio Jones (+400) are co-favorites on the odds to tally the most receiving yards, with the New York Giants’ Odell Beckham (+500) also coming in highly touted. Brown had two fewer targets per game in 2016 than in ’15, meaning he might be a less high-volume receiver now that he is 29. Jones has a receiving title from 2015, but last season the Falcons were most efficient when they spread the ball around.

Last year, the Indianapolis Colts’ T.Y. Hilton (+1200 this year) led the league in yards after being listed at +3300 in the preseason. Among the potential 2017 replicants are New England’s Brandin Cooks (+3300), who is expected to be the field-stretching target the Patriots have managed to do without since the Randy Moss days a decade ago. The aforementioned Mike Evans (+1200) is also close to a sure thing to get 11-12 targets per game in Tampa Bay and the continued development of Winston could make him a 1,500-yard receiver.

The last 12 league leaders in receiving yardage have been less than 30 years old at the start of the season. That trend has been consistent dating to the mid-1990s, with 19 of the last 21 receiving leaders being players who were no older than 29 at the start of the season.

Internet reacts to O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing

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In case you weren’t aware, O.J. Simpson was granted parole and the internet went crazy.

Cue hilarious tweets.