Patriots’ Julian Edelman wins Super Bowl MVP honor

ATLANTA — Julian Edelman could only watch last February as his New England teammates took on the the Eagles in the Super Bowl, a game that ended with Philadelphia players hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Catch after catch in this one, Tom Brady’s favorite wide receiver helped make them winners again.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Edelman said, shaking his head. “Tough times don’t last, tough people do. I preach that, and, I guess you have to live to it.”

Edelman certainly did Sunday night, earning MVP honors with 10 receptions for 141 yards while helping lift the Patriots to a 13-3 victory over the Rams in Super Bowl LIII.

“My name was called,” he said. “I was asked to make a couple of plays and we were able to do that.”

Edelman and Brady made one final connection — at midfield with confetti flying around them. They embraced for several moments — eyes filled with the tears of champions.

“The hug was just two Bay Area boys that love football, love to compete and are living out our dreams,” Edelman, a Redwood City native, said before taking a second to clarify one small detail.

“I think he held me,” the bushy-bearded receiver added of San Mateo’s Brady with a big grin. “I didn’t hold him.”

It was a satisfying ending to a big-time comeback season for Edelman, a man considered by Brady to be like a little brother — some teammates even jokingly say they have a “bromance” — and widely regarded as one of the greatest slot receivers in league history.

And, Edelman was at it again against the Rams.

Reliable and steady. All night long.

“He’s a fighter, man, that kid,” Brady said. “I’m just so proud of him. He’s been an incredible player for this team in the playoffs and he just cemented himself, again, in the history of the NFL for what his accomplishments are.”

Even when things weren’t working early for the Patriots, Edelman kept the offense going and the clock rolling as a safety valve for Brady. Eight of Edelman’s catches were for first downs, including a 13-yard grab during the go-ahead touchdown drive with about eight minutes left in the game.

“Julian always gives us those kinds of plays,” head coach Bill Belichick said. “Tough plays, tough catches, catch-and-run plays, breaking tackles for a few extra yards. He did a tremendous job.”

It has been a long journey back to this point for Edelman, who missed last season after tearing a knee ligament in New England’s third preseason game.

“I mean, injuries are psychologically so hard for an athlete because you don’t get to do what you love to do,” Edelman said. “When your team’s going out there and playing in the Super Bowl and you don’t get to help or you were not a factor, it was definitely very tough.”

Edelman was forced to sit out the first four games of this season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancers.

And, then, it was uncertain as to whether the 32-year-old would be as productive and effective as he had been throughout his career with the Patriots.

Turned out, he was as good as ever.

“He’s an elite player,” Rams defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said. “He plays hard, found some holes in our defense in the first half and pretty much the third quarter.”

“I’m pretty ecstatic,” Edelman said. “I’m emotionally pooped. I’m physically and emotionally pooped.”

Dennis Waszak Jr. is an Associated Press writer.

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