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On the Same Field as Danny Amendola and Wes Welker, Julian Edelman Stars

Leading the Way

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Big games don't always live up to the hype. It's safe to say the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos did just that. Whenever Tom Brady and Peyton Manning square off, we're in for a great time.

One of the big storylines was the return of Wes Welker to New England. Despite never winning a Super Bowl, Welker had an unbelievably productive run as a member of the New England Patriots. He was one of the most reliable receivers in the league, and Tom Brady's favorite weapon on a team loaded with talent. When he left New England, Welker teamed up with another legendary quarterback in Peyton Manning.

Many expected Danny Amendola, who previously played for the St. Louis Rams, to step into Welker's role without too much trouble. They're both tough receivers with good hands who prefer to play underneath, and although you can't replace a player like Welker, the Amendola signing made some sense. The one problem? Amendola has seemingly always had trouble staying healthy, and this year has been no different.

Little did we know that Julian Edelman, the player who was always buried on the depth chart and was forced to contribute almost solely on special teams, would be the one to step up and replace some of Welker's production. On Sunday night, with both Amendola and Welker on the field, Edelman was the star that helped lead the Patriots to a huge victory with nine receptions, 110 yards, and two touchdowns. It's only right for Edelman to shine on the big stage after waiting so long for his chance.

While he is undeniably talented, Amendola simply can't stay on the field. He and Brady need time to mesh and develop chemistry, which is awfully hard to do when Amendola is hardly playing. Amendola practically disappeared on Sunday night. Three receptions for 17 yards in one of the biggest games of the year? Doesn't sound quite like a Wes Welker replacement, does it?

Meanwhile, Wes Welker was very average with four receptions for 31 yards. For a variety of reasons, the Denver passing game never really got going. Welker's disappearance can't even be attributed to Aqib Talib, who was assigned to Demaryius Thomas for most of the game.

Is this to say that Julian Edelman is the Wes Welker replacement? Of course not. Not even close. You don't replace a player like Welker, but Edelman has done more than his fair share of chipping in. When the New England offense struggled to get going early in the year, it was Edelman that kept the ball moving enough to win games.

Wes Welker is having an excellent year on a team that could very well win the Super Bowl. It's clear that the Patriots made a mistake by letting him go, and it could be a mistake that ends up costing them dearly in the postseason. Unless things change drastically, Amendola simply isn't what the Patriots expected him to be.

Meanwhile, Edelman continues to show just how valuable he is to New England. The offense revolves around Brady and Rob Gronkowski, but Edelman has been the only consistent receiver all year. He might not be a Pro Bowl player, but Edelman had yet another huge game while Amendola and Welker were non-factors in one of the best games of the NFL season.

Mark lives in the Boston area and has been covering New England sports for various blogs over the past 4 years. He has been featured on Fox Sports Yardbarker, Fox Sports, and Sports Illustrated "Hot Clicks", and has been published on Celtics 24/7, Bleacher Report, and Sports-Kings.

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