FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It isn’t often that Tom Brady plays second fiddle to anyone in the New England Patriots locker room.

But so it was Sunday evening.

As a throng of media four-deep sought the words of one Julian Edelman, whose locker is located right next to Brady’s, the Patriots star quarterback was, well, shoved aside.

Trying to dress for his postgame press conference, Brady had to shift over to the vacant locker on the other side of his — one previously occupied by Deion Branch, who was released Saturday — to put on his shirt and trousers.

And that was all right.

Edelman deserved the spotlight Sunday. All he did was rack up 222 total yards, lead the Patriots in rushing and return a punt 68 yards for a touchdown in New England’s 59-24 spanking of the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium.

“Yeah, Julian had a couple of big plays for us,” said Bill Belichick, in what is as close to a compliment that the Patriots head coach will give.

It was easily Edelman’s best game since he was injured in the Week 3 loss at Baltimore. Since then he has been slow to get back into the offensive rhythm. Until Sunday.

“Injuries are part of the game,” said Edelman. “It takes you a little while to get back into it and I’m still trying to get there. Today it was nice to help contribute to the team.”

As he sat in front of his locker, he admitted that he was tired.

“He should be,” said Matthew Slater, the team’s top special teams player and Edelman’s roommate. “The man did a lot of running today.”

It began with his punt return. New England trailed 14-7 when the Patriot defense forced a punt, which Edelman fielded at the New England 32. Here’s how he saw the play develop:

“(Colts punter Pat McAfee) kind of kicked it low, the ball came off his foot a little bit, so it got down there quick. I set it up a little bit and I saw our guys had their guys blocked. They did their job. We had the gunners (covered). As a returner you’ve got to make at least one miss. They executed what they had to do and then I had to do my job and we were fortunate enough to get to the end zone.”

McAfee was the guy Edelman made miss. And fortune may have had something to do with it, but so did practice.

“We work on that every day,” said Slater. “Everyone on that unit works hard. It was nice to see us have some success.”

Living with Edelman, Slater has seen how hard he has worked to get back in the lineup.

“Any time a player sustains an injury and can’t be out there, it’s hard for him,” said Slater. “He kept his head up, kept working through it. He worked himself back to good health, and once he got back on the field for us, he’s made plays.”

Edelman wasn’t done.

In the third quarter he caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from Brady.

In the fourth quarter he had a 47-yard run that set up a Stevan Ridley 3-yard touchdown run. Later he had a 49-yard punt return that set up the final touchdown, a 4-yard run by Shane Vereen.

“He’s really worked hard to do everything to get back — the return game, passing game, slip screens, stuff like that, blocking,” said Belichick. “That was great. He had obviously a real productive day. We needed that. It’s good. It’s good to complement some of the other production we had out there.”

Edelman, like just about every Patriot, said he was simply happy to be part of the game.

“I just do what the coaches tell me,” he said. “Go out there and execute any situation that they put me in and that’s my job on the team — to do what the coaches ask me to do and try to contribute in any kind of way.”

Sunday that was enough to earn top billing.

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH