By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) It has become a go-to of its own when lamenting the quality of NFL games, the idea that we never know what a catch is. We’ve gotten used to our eyes playing tricks in real time, leading to lengthy and tedious replay investigations to determine both position and possession that only sometimes satisfy and often further confuse.
So it’s noteworthy when perhaps the greatest Super Bowl ever played features two iconic grabs by wide receivers in relatively quick succession, and both plays were clear and obvious and utterly lacking for controversy.
Julio Jones made what might have been remembered as the most balletic reception in the game’s history, had his Falcons not choked away a championship, 34-28 in overtime to the Patriots.
He jumped above a defender to grab Matt Ryan’s pass along the sideline with 4:47 remaining in the game and the Falcons leading 28-20. After first bobbling the ball then securing it, he gracefully tapped both toes in bounds before rolling out at the 22. It was his second spectacular catch of that kind in the game already and gave the probable winners first down in field goal range with a chance to run the clock before making it a two-score game.
Until it wasn’t, and circumstances allowed for it to be another star receiver’s turn.
On the drive that would lead to an overtime-forcing touchdown and their eventual win, the Patriots found the same intersection of good fortune and skill that the Giants’ David Tyree inhabited when his 2008 Super Bowl XLII “Helmet Catch” helped ruin their attempt at an undefeated season. This time it was Julian Edelman one-upping Jones for a place in NFL history.
On first down from their own 36, Tom Brady’s pass bounced off the hands of cornerback Robert Alford — a missed chance at a game-deciding interception — then ricocheted off Alford’s knee and then lower leg as two more Atlanta players converged on Edelman as he dove back for the ball. Edelman caught it just inches off the turf, with his red-gloved hands keeping it from scraping the ground.
There was a review, but this time we all knew what we saw when we saw it. Edelman knew, too.
“I felt like I had it,” he told reporters. “I knew I had, like, a good feel on it. I didn’t know if any piece of the ball was touching, but I — I didn’t know what the dang rule is. No one knows what the rule for a catch is, but I was like, ‘I think I got it, I’m pretty sure I got it.'”
A pair of all-time-great receptions just minutes apart will help mark a game no football fan will ever forget, unsullied by any questions about rules and definitions. It’s a Super Bowl we should all be satisfied to have caught.