With a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter, plus five catches for 51 yards and a touchdown and a 47-yard run, Edelman had the sort of game fans came to expect from Patriots Hall of Fame receiver Troy Brown during the 2001 season.
Julian Edelman pulls away from the Colts' Jerry Hughes on his 68-yard punt return, part of his 222 all-purpose yards.
In fact, in the final game of that season, against the Carolina Panthers, Brown had a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown, in addition to six catches for 45 yards.
Brown's impressive punt returns were commonplace in that Super Bowl campaign, but this season, the Patriots have struggled to generate big plays in the return game.
"I tell you right now, we've been working real hard as a unit to get that done and create an explosion play on the punt return unit," Edelman said. "Guys have been working their tail off, and they executed what they had to do, got their guys."
Edelman also provided a spark on offense when he touched the ball, much like Brown did a decade ago.
"That's my job: Deal with the ball in your hands and try to make something with it," Edelman said.
After releasing veteran receiver Deion Branch on Saturday, the Patriots relied more heavily on Edelman in Sunday's win over the Indianapolis Colts. Not only was he effective on screen passes, but the fourth-year receiver gained 47 yards on an end-around run in the fourth quarter.
"It was unfortunate I didn't get in. It set us up for a touchdown," he said. "We got the touchdown as an offense and it kind of put it away, so that was good."
Edelman had a 2-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter that sparked the Patriots' second-half rout of the Colts, and added a 49-yard punt return in the fourth quarter.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Edelman is the third player in Patriots history with punt-return and receiving touchdowns in the same game. In 1979, Stanley Morgan achieved the feat, while Irving Fryar matched it in 1985. Coincidentally, all three games came against the Colts in November and in New England.
"He had obviously a real productive day. We needed that," coach Bill Belichick said of Edelman. "It’s good. It’s good to complement some of the other production we had out there."