FOXBORO, Mass. — If Tom Brady was feeling any ill effects from Wednesday’s “knee injury” then he sure didn’t show it on Friday night.
Brady was almost picture perfect in his second preaseason game of the year, shredding the Buccaneers’ defense during two series to the tune of 11 of 12 passing for 107 yards and a touchdown. His lone incompletion of the game just so happened to come on his final pass of the night, but the real story is everything that came before it.
A few days ago, while Brady lay on the ground clutching his left knee in pain, such a performance seemed like no more than a pipe dream. But while thoughts of ACLs and Ryan Mallett-led offenses clouded the minds of New Englanders everywhere in what feels like eons ago now, Brady did his best to set minds at ease with the type of calming performance that only he could deliver.
Brady’s night was over almost as quickly as it began, as he lasted only about eight minutes on the field before heading off for the night, but not before making some significant strides on offense — namely his new favorite weapon Danny Amendola.
After linking up just once for six yards during the Patriots’ preseason opener last week, Brady and Amendola got into rhythm right away against the Bucs. On his first pass of the night, Brady looked Amendola’s way, linking up with him on a six-yard gain to get the passing game going. The two connected three more times on that opening drive on gains of three, 13 and a 26, the last of which resulted in a pretty touchdown grab over the middle.
Brady found Amendola twice more on their second, and final, drive of the night, hitting him for nine and then 14 yards on back-to-back plays before the Patriots’ offense ran out of steam and was forced to punt. The two finished the night, linking up six times for 71 yards and a score, which when translated over a full 60 minutes, rather than Friday’s eight, might just cause people around here to forget the name Wes Welker.
As much as people like to argue otherwise, Amendola isn’t merely Welker reincarnated. He’s actually more than that.
Amendola’s skill set isn’t limited to the slot or quick, shifty moves out in space like his predecessor. He boasts impressive straight-line speed, knows how to run deep routes and can even play effectively on the outside when asked to. That’s not to say he has superior skills on the whole, but Amendola might actually be a better fit for Brady’s skill set now and going forward.
The pair have looked as thick as thieves out there since the first few days of OTAs and there have been very few, if any, real hiccups to point to since then. Friday’s performance just shows how far along they are already and that, as long as both can stay healthy, this offense should be just fine.
The Patriots’ offense still isn’t back to their No. 1-ranked status of last season, and there’s no telling if they’ll ever get there. But a performance like the one Brady and Amendola put on against the Bucs has to encourage even the staunchest doubter.
They’re not always going to be perfect, as Brady proved with that one incompletion, but they’re damn close.