FOXBOROUGH – After the New England Patriots were the undisputed "team of the decade" during the 2000s, the next decade began with a major question mark as to who would be the dominant team in the NFL. The 2010s began with Super Bowl championships for the New Orleans Saints, the Green Bay Packers, the New York Giants, the Baltimore Ravens, and the Seattle Seahawks. So, there was not a whole lot of consistency to proclaim one team as "the team of decade."
But eventually, the New England Patriots rose to the top once again, and it was thanks, in large part, to one undersized wide receiver who no one could have ever anticipated would be so crucial.
When the decade began, Edelman was just a deep on the depth chart receiver who made a name for himself with a number of impressive punt returns. As the decade rolled on, he began to earn Tom Brady's trust more and more and became the go-to New England wideout of the decade. During the regular seasons of the past ten years, Edelman racked up 462 receptions for 5,031 yards and 29 touchdowns. His post-season numbers were even more impressive as he entered into the record books with 109 receptions for 1,368 yards and three touchdowns.
Edelman's biggest and most important contributions came from the way he played during the three Super Bowl victories in the Patriots' decade. (He was also a member of the team for New England's two Super Bowl losses in the past ten years.) In Super Bowl XLIX against the Seahawks, Edelman recorded nine receptions for a team-leading 109 yards and he also hauled in the game's winning touchdown.
In Super Bowl LI, Edelman caught five passes for 87 yards and he also put up one passing and one rushing attempt. But the biggest moment of the game belonged to Edelman when, on the game-tying drive towards the end of regulation, a pass that was batted in the air bounced off the shoe of a defending Atlanta Falcon and hovered in the air just long enough for Edelman to snatch the ball and hold onto it for one of the most miraculous catches in Super Bowl history.
And, of course, in Super Bowl LIII, Edelman caught ten passes for 141 yards, en route to being named Super Bowl MVP.
Many athletes have performed better for Boston in the 2010s statistically than Edelman. But few were as clutch as he was.
Image via Flickr / Jeffrey Beall