FOXBORO, Mass. — New England Patriots opponents now have another new wide receiver to worry about.
This is Danny Amendola’s third season with the Patriots, but he has proven in consecutive performances that he’s not just some fourth or fifth banana behind Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Dion Lewis and Brandon LaFell.
Amendola had just 10 receptions for 98 yards through the Patriots’ first four games, but now he has broken out with 15 catches for 191 yards and one touchdown in the past two weeks while also contributing 94 return yards.
Amendola, of course, was highly regarded for a reason in 2013, when he came to the Patriots as a free agent. He responded with a solid season, catching 54 passes for 633 yards in his first year with the Patriots before taking a step back in 2014 with just 27 receptions for 200 yards.
Perhaps an offseason trip to Montana with quarterback Tom Brady or a solid showing in the 2014 postseason put the veteran receiver back on track. He was Brady’s most dependable target in Sunday’s 30-23 win over the New York Jets, catching eight passes on nine targets for 86 yards and a score in a performance right out of Steve Largent’s book with leaping spectacular catches and hard-nosed play.
“We have a lot of playmakers on our team,” Amendola said. “We’re just focused on doing our job each play and try to move the ball the best we can.”
The Patriots were without Lewis and fourth receiver Keshawn Martin, both of whom were declared inactive with injuries Sunday, and LaFell dropped six passes in his return to the offense. Brady can’t target Gronkowski or Edelman on every play, so someone had to step up.
The Patriots ran the ball just nine times, and Brady handed it off on just five occasions, so big games from Gronkowski, Edelman and Amendola were necessary, since quick passes can replicate the dependability of handoffs.
“You know, we wanted to play fast and wanted to kind of slow them down by moving the ball and getting in and out of plays and getting in and out of the huddle and going quickly,” Amendola said. “So that was our motive.”
Going against the No. 2-ranked run defense in the NFL without Lewis possibly contributed to the decision, as well.
“We felt like we had good matchups throwing the ball, so we tried to take advantage of those matchups,” Amendola said. “The runs that we ran, we didn’t get a lot out of.”
Only the Patriots could go into a game against cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine and believe they have advantageous matchups, and only this team can hand off the ball five times and still come out with a decisive victory. It helps, of course, when you have receivers like Gronkowski, Edelman and Amendola at your disposal with the best quarterback in the NFL.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images