He had the game on his fingertips and then off his fingertips, Julian Edelman experiencing one of the oddest, most-frenzied minutes in NFL playoff history.
The sequence began midway through the fourth quarter with New England trying to protect a 17-14 lead.
Edelman was deep to receive a punt from Kansas City’s Dustin Colquitt. The kick came up short and began to bounce toward the Patriots’ end zone.
Having initially waved his teammates away from the bounding ball, Edelman, suddenly moved to try to save his team some valuable yardage, bent down and reached for it.
The ball appeared to nick his fingers or perhaps his thumb for a muff, and Chiefs receiver Gehrig Dieter recovered at the New England 25-yard line.
“I didn’t think I was that close,” Edelman said later. “It took a short hop on me, and I don’t play baseball.”
Arrowhead Stadium erupted as Kansas City’s players danced around celebrating their great fortune.
Edelman, however, stoically waved his arms again, indicating he hadn’t touched the ball.
Then he approached the huddling officials and told them the same thing.
Sure enough, despite replays that could be interpreted either way, a review resulted in the call being reversed, giving the Patriots the ball back.
“Thank God,” Edelman said. “I didn’t touch it. It was close, though, I guess.”
After a running play by Sony Michel gained two yards, quarterback Tom Brady attempted to hit Edelman with a pass near midfield.
This time, the ball undoubtably glanced off Edelman’s fingers and popped into the hands of safety Daniel Sorensen for Brady’s second interception of the game.
“I always preach you have to have a short memory, whether good or bad,” Edelman said. “That was a bad play. I felt awful.”
Only two snaps later, Patrick Mahomes hit Damien Williams for a 23-yard touchdown, giving the Chiefs the lead and setting up the game’s seesawing finish.
Despite the two less-than-glorious moments, Edelman had another effective game, leading the Patriots with seven receptions for 96 yards.
Four of those catches and 74 of those yards came in the fourth quarter and overtime. Both of his overtime receptions converted third-and-10 situations.
Sunday marked the 12th consecutive postseason game in which Edelman has had at least five catches.
“It was fun to be a part of it, but we have one more game,” he said. “We get to play in the last game of the year. This is what you play the game for.”
Slater follows family tradition on coin toss
Of all the signals, plays and audibles called Sunday, one of the biggest calls was the one that came right before overtime.
That’s when New England’s Matthew Slater said “heads” for the coin flip, the Patriots winning the toss and the Chiefs never possessing the ball again.
Asked how he felt when the coin came up heads, Slater said, “Pretty good about our chances.”
“We’ve got Tom Brady as a teammate,” he said. “I always feel good about my chances with him.”
Now Slater, who played at UCLA and Servite High, advances to Super Bowl LIII to face the Rams, the franchise for which his father, Jackie, had a 20-year Hall of Fame career.
Slater grew up a Rams fan and called it “surreal and unreal” to be playing them in his latest Super Bowl.
“It’ll be strange for my family, for sure,” he said. “But, hey, I don’t care who we’re playing. I didn’t play for the Rams. My dad did. I love this team and organization. We’ll be ready.”
A special-teams captain, Slater has won two Super Bowls with New England.
The Patriots selected him in the fifth round of the 2008 draft. He has spent his entire career with the team.
He called “heads” Sunday because, he explained, he always calls “heads.” Why? Because that’s what his dad did.
“For us, we always say God is the head of our life, so we call heads,” Slater said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Record 11th Super Bowl