A large collection of Patriots fans gave up on Danny Amendola too soon.
The tweets came flying through my mentions before the slot receiver even gimpily made it off the field. Amendola came up lame, holding his groin midway through the second quarter. He didn’t come out of the locker room with the rest of his team to start the third quarter.
He made his triumphant return just in time for the Patriots’ first drive of the second half, not looking quite 100 percent. But he powered through the rest of the game, rarely taking a play off, hauling in tough catch after tough catch.
It’s pretty simple to say the Patriots would have lost this game if not for the free-agent addition. He had six catches for 64 yards after reaggravating the groin injury, and every one of them came with a vicious hit over the middle.
Tom Brady didn’t have much choice, either. Outside of Amendola, Julian Edelman and Shane Vereen, New England’s receivers were as reliable as Johnny Manziel‘s faulty cell phone at the Manning Passing Academy.
To be fair to those who overreacted to Amendola’s ailment, it didn’t look good there for a second as No. 80 limped off the field after Denver’s No. 83 had himself a game and a half with nine receptions for 67 yards and two touchdowns.
Amendola may not have got the scores Welker did (those were saved for Edelman), but he also didn’t have the drops or the fumbled punt return — and neither did Edelman. Amendola will still need to string together some impressive performances to prove that letting Welker walk was a good move, but this was a good start. And it’s a good sign that Amendola’s faulty groin allowed him to return.
Amendola will have to recover fast if he wants to play Thursday night against the Jets. But the offense will need him, as proven by the awful performance they put out against the hapless Bills (and let’s be completely fair. They were hapless).
Kenbrell Thompkins and Brady were not on the same page all game. Brady was out there reading Mark Twain while Thompkins was still stuck on Matt Christopher. In the end, it didn’t matter, as the Patriots came away 23-21 victors. But the team will need at least one more offensive player to stand out.
Even when Rob Gronkowski comes back, he, Amendola, Vereen and Edelman don’t make up an offense. Either Thompkins, Josh Boyce, Zach Sudfeld or Aaron Dobson will need to emerge.
But for now, Brady will need to work with what he’s got. And the quarterback wasn’t fully on his game in Orchard Park, N.Y. But the team showed some heart they didn’t have last season.
It was rare to see the 2012 Patriots mount a late-game comeback. So far, the team is 1-0 in that category this season. They could not have done it without Amendola.
I’ll save the gritty, scrappy, hard-working, dirt dog adjectives usually saved for undersized white wide receivers. Amendola’s performance was impressive regardless of size, shape, color or draft position.
The Texas Tech product has avoided his first two injury scares. For this team to compete this year, he’ll have to avoid what has plagued him his entire career for the rest of the year.
But surely, those that gave up on Amendola so soon are feeling pretty stupid right now.