Edelman returns and so does Patriots offense


FOXBORO -- Julian Edelman said of his foot earlier this week, "If it goes, it goes."

The good news for Edelman is that the foot didn't go. The Patriots offense, however, did go -- down the field.

It's been no secret that a New England offense that was essentially reduced to a skeleton crew by the end of the season struggled to sustain long drives and put up points.

Things were so bad by Week 17 that Bill Belichick relied heavily on the running game -- something a Tom Brady-led offense just doesn't do. That's especially the case when the options to run are Steven Jackson, who was contemplating retirement just a few weeks before, and Brandon Bolden, who's primarily used on special teams.

But in the AFC Divisional Round against the Kansas City Chiefs, it was clear from the very beginning that the Patriots were going to throw the ball. And with Edelman active for the first time since suffering a Jones fracture in left foot, he was not only going to see plenty of targets, but make things easier for the rest of the offense, too.

The Patriots jumped out to a 7-0 lead over the Chiefs after an 11-play, 80-yard drive in which Brady threw the ball - wait for it - 11 times. And of course, the first positive yardage the team got on their drive came on an 11-yard completion to Edelman, on third down no less.

Brady hit Edelman again for 13 yards on the very next play, and the Patriots were off.

"It was good," Edelman said of his first drive. "We had a good week of practice and practice execution became game reality and it was good to get out there and get a catch on that first drive."

Sixteen yards to Danny Amendola took them into Chiefs territory before three catches by Rob Gronkowski had Brady and Co. celebrating in the end zone like the good old days. They'd go on to score 27 points and beat the Chiefs, 27-20.

Edelman didn't catch a touchdown pass in this game, but led the team with 10 receptions for 100 yards, and tied a career playoff-high with 10 receptions.

Seven of those ten receptions went for first downs (plus another run that went for a first down), two of which came on third down.

The fact that this performance came in his first game back from a major injury is not lost on his teammates who have watched him on the road to recovery.

"He's a great player," Gronkowski said of Edelman. "I'm super proud of him, the way he worked to get back, the way he worked to get ready for this playoff game. Obviously I've been through some injuries, and I'm telling you, it's just not easy to come back right in mid-season and just have a performance like that. You gotta give him credit for all the hard work and dedication he put in there to help out this team."

Nobody on the Patriots praises Edelman more than Brady. In fact, on multiple occasions during the regular season, Brady stressed how important Edelman was to the offense and how reliable he is out there. It makes sense then that Brady threw it to Edelman 16 times.

"I think he's worked his tail off," Brady said. "He's always been one of the hardest workers, one of the hardest workers I've ever played with, one of the most determined young men that's on this team. And he's got as much heart as anybody. It's a serious injury to come back from, and to play the way that he did today was great."

Edelman didn't seem to be limited on the field at all. He reportedly went to the team's X-ray room after the game, but told reporters he didn't get an X-ray. It could have been just a check-up to make sure everything looked and felt OK.

Though Edelman has to be happy about his health now, he's still wasn't content with his performance. He had a number of balls bounce off his hands, one of which was almost intercepted in the first half.

"[I'm not satisfied], because I dropped some balls that I shouldn't have," Edelman said. "You can always play better and to go out and play good in the next game. You can't win ball games doing those kind of things, so, I'm personally going to have to get back and do a lot more."

Though he's still got work to do, he's a big reason the team has another week to improve.

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