HOUSTON — You could say the Super Bowl owed 'em one. Julian Edelman was the man to collect.
The Patriots receiver made a catch for the highlight reels Sunday — a once-in-a-lifetime grab that punctuated New England's record-setting Super Bowl LI comeback, and one as amazing as what David Tyree of the Giants did nine years earlier, pinning the ball against his helmet, to break all those Patriots' hearts.
The catch Sunday was the highlight of New England's 91-yard drive that tied it after a two-point conversion with 57 seconds left in regulation on the way to a come-from-behind 34-28 overtime win over the Falcons.
Edelman somehow got his hands pinned up against, then underneath a Tom Brady pass that bounced off CB Robert Alford's hands. The ball then hit off his knee and shin, then tried to hit the turf.
Only it didn't.
"I knew I caught it," Edelman said. "I felt like I had it. I didn't know if maybe a piece of the ball was touching. I don't know what the dang rule is. Nobody knows what the rule is for a catch. I was like, 'I'm pretty sure I caught it.' "
"At the end of the day, all you can control is what you can control," Alford said. "I saw he made the play. I saw him come down with it. I saw my foot and the ball when he got his hands underneath it. Sometimes, there's nothing more you can do."
Review upheld the 23-yard reception, the video clearly showing Edelman, with his red-gloved hands, first pinning the ball against Alford's foot then getting his hands underneath the ball as it bounced off the defender. It gave New England the ball at the Atlanta 41 with 2:03 left in regulation.
"Quite a competitor," Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said of his do-everything receiver. "I think to win a game like that after falling behind by so much, you need a few plays like that."
BROKEN BUT UNBOWED: The Falcons' offensive line was among the healthiest in the NFL this season with all five players starting every game. They were together again at the beginning of Super Bowl LI, but their leader and best blocker was hurting. C Alex Mack started the game playing with a fractured left fibula, according to multiple reports.
The Falcons, who tried to downplay the injury all week, said Mack was injured in the second quarter of their 44-21 win over the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. He took off one play and returned to that game. Mack didn't practice at all the week after the NFC title game and was limited in his preparation for the Patriots.
By starting Sunday, Mack joined a small list of players who fought through a similar significant injury to play in the Super Bowl. Former Gators DL Jack Youngblood played in both the Rams' 1979 NFC championship win over the Bucs and then Super Bowl XIV with a broken fibula. Raiders CB Charles Woodson had surgery on a cracked fibula before Super Bowl XXXVII. And Eagles WR Terrell Owens had a fractured fibula and torn right ankle ligament when he played in Super Bowl XXXIX.
BUSHES ATTEND: Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, took part in the pregame coin toss. The former first couple got an ovation, including applause from coaches and players from both teams, when they came onto the field slowly with Barbara in a golf cart and the 92-year-old former president being pushed in a wheelchair next to her. The Bushes often attend games of the Houston Texans, the host stadium for its second Super Bowl. Bush, the nation's 41st president, was recently released from Houston Methodist Hospital, where he received treatment for pneumonia for more than two weeks. Vice president Mike Pence also attended the game.
TRUMP'S PREDICTION: President Donald Trump predicted an eight-point victory by the Patriots. While Trump counts Brady as a friend and says he likes coach Bill Belichick and owner Bob Kraft, he also praises the Falcons as a "fantastic team." But, Trump said, "You have to stick up for your friends, right?" Trump said the Patriots were more comfortable because they've been to the big game before. After the game, Trump tweeted: "What an amazing comeback and win by the Patriots. Tom Brady, Bob Kraft and Coach B are total winners. Wow!''
SUPER SLOW START: A scoreless first quarter in the Super Bowl was nothing new for Brady. In his seven Super Bowls, he has never led his team to a point in the first quarter. For the first time in 11 years, both teams punted on each of their first two offensive possessions in a Super Bowl.
Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.