Catching Trust: Danny Amendola Answers Call on Patriots Game-Winning Drive Over Bills

Danny Amendola displayed reliability on New England’s game-winning drive over the Bills. (Photo: USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Staff Writer: Oliver Thomas

The New England Patriots squeaked out a 23-21 win over the Buffalo Bills in the regular-season opener Sunday afternoon. But for the better part of four quarters inside Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Bills offense looked like the more dependable one.

New England’s new-look attack was sent sputtering from three unsuccessful red-zone drives, multiple missed blocking assignments from the offensive line, fumbles from running back Stevan Ridley and quarterback Tom Brady, a bobbled catch-turned-interception from tight end Zach Sudfeld, and just four receptions on 14 targets from wideout Kenbrell Thompkins.

Yet down just one with 4:31 left in the final frame, the Patriots defense forced a three-and-out, which afforded Brady and Co. one last opportunity to win the game. And 48 yards later, a 35-yard field goal from kicker Stephen Gostkowski did just that.

New England’s 12-play final drive was more than a display of cohesion, though; it was a display of trust between Brady, tailback Shane Vereen and wide receiver Danny Amendola.

As the Patriots maneuvered through the Bills defense with only minutes remaining, Vereen totaled 31 yards on five touches, while Brady kneeled twice for a loss of three yards.

Although when the Patriots needed to move the sticks in the underneath, it was Amendola who was called upon.

He answered.

3rd-and-3: Six-Yard Quick Slant

On the third play of New England’s make-or-break drive, the offense left the huddle in “11” personnel with Vereen flanking Brady in shotgun, and with tight end Michael Hoomanawanui in abutting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer on the line.

With it being a third-and-short situation, Amendola lined up out wide left before motioning into the slot. That adjustment drew Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin along with him, all while the Buffalo sub-package defensive front planned to rush five from the weak side.

As Brady took the snap and went through his reads, the 5’11”, 185-pound Texas Tech product planted his left food in the direction of the flats before cutting towards the hashes. That subtle move caught McKelvin with his back to the outside, conceding the middle of the field for his man to run a quick slant.

With the Bills sending extra bodies on the blitz, linebacker territory was vacant. And Brady saw it.

With the lane clear, Amendola was able establish inside seating. He maintained body lean through the diagonal turn and looked back to his QB with his arms ready to extend.

Concurrently, strong-side linebacker Jerry Hughes – who was the lone linebacker to drop back in zone – switched field to help contest the play. Safety Jim Leonhard soon followed.

But before the assistance could arrive on scene, Amendola was able to glove the football.

His early quick-out cut transformed into a quick slant, and New England’s fifth-year route-runner was able to capitalize on the deception. Not only did he make the most of his initial body language, he added to the capitalization by keeping his feet churning with the ball airborne.

As the ball sailed in, the 2008 undrafted free-agent pointed his left foot in the direction he intended to go. That presence of mind maximized his acceleration as he made a “U” with his fingers and thumbs to inhale the pass.

The culmination of those factors netted the Patriots a six-yard gain; it netted the Patriots new life on a vital third-down with just over three minutes remaining.

2nd-and-4: Six-Yard Pivot Route

After a six-yard scamper by Vereen on first down, the Patriots set themselves up for a 2nd-and-4 just before the two-minute warning. Vying to keep the Bills uneven, the offense spread five wide with one tight end and no backs.

Buffalo responded with a two-up, two-down front, playing off of Amendola and fellow New England receiver Julian Edelman in the seams.

This scenario played right into the hands of Amendola, who was prepped to run a pivot – a route Wes Welker practically trademarked during his time in Foxborough, Mass. The premise behind the pivot is to bunch the linebackers and safeties inside as the receiver, just before the receiver plants and turns back outside.

On second down, it worked as well as it’s drawn up.

As Brady harnessed the shotgun snap, Amendola broke off the line and inside. This misdirection attracted the attention on safety Aaron Williams and middle linebacker Nigel Bradham.

Just when the two Bills started to cheat up, Amendola planted his inside foot and stopped on a dime before swinging towards the numbers.

Brady deposited a ball in the direction of Amendola – who was in a five-yard bubble – and No. 80 snagged it on the run. He spun up the field as Williams and Bradham closed in.

With one late swivel, Amendola burrowed past the first-down marker before being tackled.

Amendola’s quick feet and proclivity in regards to catching passes on the run gave New England its second first down in just three plays.

1st-and-15: Four-Yard Drag Route

A false start by right guard Dan Connolly put the Patriots offense in a 1st-and-15 at the Buffalo 46-yard line. Striving to chip away at that deficit with under two minutes to go, New England shipped out in a three-wide set versus Buffalo’s nickel defense, with Amendola motioning inside from the “Z.”

Bills cornerback Justin Rogers joined the Patriots pass-catcher, who was gearing up for a drag route right behind the five-man rush.

Off the snap, Amendola stuttered as if he was running a comeback. But that was merely a façade, which brought rookie middle linebacker Kiko Alonso back on his heels. And with Rogers providing a soft cushion – covering the back 10 instead of the front five – Amendola was able to carve through the teeth of the defense.

As Alonso assumed a spy role on Vereen in the flats, Brady led Amendola through clear pasture.

Amendola reeled the pass in and got two hands wrapped around it before Leonhard wrapped him up.

Amendola’s drag only gained four yards. Nevertheless, he took what the defense gave him. In turn, the completion brought the Patriots to a much more manageable 2nd-and-11.

3rd-and-8: 10-yard Takeoff Route

Following a three-yard pass to Shane Vereen down the left sideline, the Patriots embattled a pivotal 3rd-and-8 at Buffalo’s 39-yard line. It was either move the chains, face a fourth down, or attempt 56-yard field goal in a hostile environment with a rookie holder.

For head coach Bill Belichick and staff, move the chains sounded like the best option.

With Vereen in the backfield next to Brady, the offense sent trips right with Thompkins split left. Buffalo replied with dime defensive backs and one safety deep over top.

Amendola aligned in the slot, where inside corner Ron Brooks loomed. He was orchestrated to run a takeoff route up through the secondary to the first-down marker.

As Brady handled the snap from center Ryan Wendell, Amendola veered outside. And with Brooks unexpectedly jamming Edelman’s in route, a natural pick was set over top. Amendola kept balance and zeroed in on center field.

Brady saw the window – which was noticeably expanded with the safeties draped deep – and waited for Amendola to cross through it.

Anticipating the void, Brady released a ball sighted towards the 27-year-old. And although it was deflected at the line by defensive tackle Kyle Williams, it reached its intended man.

Amendola stepped out in front of a closing Williams snare it.

He did. Even though the collision with Williams put him on spin cycle, Amendola was able to retain possession of the ball through contact with both the defensive back and the turf.

Amendola sold out for the ball and gave the Patriots offense a 10-yard gain when at least eight were needed.

Sitting on the 30-yard line, New England went by ground for the next three plays and exhausted all three of Buffalo’s timeouts. Then, with five seconds left on the clock, Gostkowski’s kick went through the uprights.

Not only was Amendola key in making it all transpire, he was vital. His performance on the Patriots’ game-winning drive consisted of four receptions, with three coming on third downs, for 26 yards and a trio of first-downs.

Amendola rose to the occasion late despite re-aggravating a nagging groin injury in the second quarter. He was listed as “questionable” to return.

Yet by the time the scoreboard read triple zeroes, the former Dallas Cowboys practice squadder had accounted for nine of the team’s 18 first-down pass completions. He had accounted for seven third-down conversions. And in total, he had accounted for 10 receptions and 104 yards.

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10 Responses to “Catching Trust: Danny Amendola Answers Call on Patriots Game-Winning Drive Over Bills”

  1. J H TARBORO says:

    Amendola did very well despite his injury. Josh Mcdaniel must get creative and use RB sets, because of depth on the roster and Brady must get the other recievers in to the mix.

  2. Dan Foster says:

    The SL Rams are cheapskates, and once again let one of their best players slip away due to an unwillingness to pay them what they are worth. Ram fans talked about Anendola’s propensity for injuries as if that were a flaw in his performance . The guy plays his ass off every week. He caught 10 passes for Brady in Week #1 including the 3rd down play where the pass was tipped, caught the pass, and enabled the game winning field goal.
    I remember one game last year he caught 18 passes for the Rams. The fans all talked about his injuries. Is that really a flaw- when a guy plays so hard he gets hurt? Rather have a Randy Moss-type player who takes two out of three plays off?? Fucking Cheap-OH Rams let their best offensive player get away FOR MONEY!!! Its no surprise to me the Patriots are competitive every year. They lose a Wes Welker and grab a Danny Amendola to fill-in. Fucking cheapskate Rams.

    • steve earle says:

      Yes Dan being injury prone is a flaw. Yes the guy plays his ass off, when healthy, but so does Welker but Welker never seems to get injured. Welker was seen to take terrable hits then bounce up and go again. When a team is dependent so much as the Pats and Rams were on Welker and Amendola respectivly which team did better? The Pats with Welker. Talk about cheep, BB is as cheep as any in the NFL so don’t complain to us about Rams, thank you.

      • Alex says:

        BB is not cheap. He just happens to understand how to manage a roster in the salary cap era, unlike most of the media and fans.

        As for Amendola. He needs to prove he can stay healthy, but he has had some freak injuries, and played through a pretty tough one on Sunday.
        He also took a lot of big hits and got straight up and kept going, very Wes like, but with even better than than the current Wes.

        • steve earle says:

          Sure, OK, but is Danny going to play against the Jets tommrow, or the game after that? How many games did he play last year and the year before? I give him all the credit in the world for how he plays but he hasn’t played even near a full season yet. I know it’s not his fault, it’s just how he is. Yes Bill manages the cap but at the expense of drafting or keeping impact players and once Tom is done all the “value picks” will be unable to win, buy or steal a Div title let alone a Super Bowl, imo. All the SB stars were drafted by the Tuna not Bill, except for Brady and that was a 6th round fluke it will never happen again and I’ll bet a coffee and donut on that.

  3. CoachLarry says:

    Vereen out a few weeks with broken wrist and Sudfeld pulled hamstring.. Prepare to claw and fight for the next month..I pray for Brady, one man don’t deserve this.

  4. CoachLarry says:

    Ok cool, DA earned the trust of NE and showed us something yesterday worthy of a braveheart movie scene but whats up w/ the Defense? Wheres that Hightower from Alabama that shoot gaps and hit qb’s or play on the edge on rd down and causes fumbles? Why they always show promise during every Buccs preseason game then go left field in performance when we need it the most? If Linebackers cant cover, whats the use of making the Defense complicated each week? I remember BJGE and how good he looked compared to Maroney, the illusion of improvement but BJGE is average at best compared to the league at the end of the day. Same thing with the defense, the improvement is minor, playing the run is better yet they are still average at best. In a passing league you go out a draft thumping linebackers to drop in coverage? Makes no sense to me..

    The oline had a rough day. Sudfeld and KT are rookies so their performance is understandable but Ridley is a joke. Its so much you could do with Edelman and it shows in the redzone at times when you need a big target. Getting those crossing patterns work but come playoffs they will take hits on those easy catches that pay a toll during games. It happened to Welker and it will happen again. DA took hits on some amazing catches yesterday and thats vs the Bills.

    Its only one game and they won but i guess Brady gotta claim he’s retiring for guys to play harder and coaching staff to try everything to get him another ring like Rey Lewis.

    PS Our rookies better know where Gholsten (BUCCS) is after catching the ball cuz he could be a missle w/ no remorse.

    • steve earle says:

      Seems BB is still playing a 90″s def in a new age. Still have to stop the run but not stopping the pass will kill us vs the better teams. A good solid fronf 4 can acount for runs but has to also pressure the passer because you can’t blitze every snap. Just hoping things tighten up pretty quick.

  5. steve earle says:

    We’re use to seeing Brady come through in the clutch but Amendola was an unknown unproven for most of us. I was impressed with his toughness coming through while suffering from a groin pull ( Damn Painful things). My only hope is this doesn’t keep him off the field in upcoming games which is his history ( injurys ) one thing or another. Keeping my fingers crossed.

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