Reimer: Once reviled, Danny Amendola now takes rightful place as Patriots playoff hero

Alex Reimer
January 21, 2018 - 8:50 pm

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Amendola did not receive a warm introduction to New England. Throughout the first half of his career, the injury-riddled wideout was best known for his inability to stay on the field. It seemed crazy that Bill Belichick would replace Wes Welker, who became Tom Brady’s favorite target and good friend, with the unproven Amendola. 

Five years later, Welker is long retired and only posted two productive seasons in Denver before concussions forced him to wear a Great Gazoo-like helmet and step away from the game. Amendola, meanwhile, is a Patriots playoff hero and now accompanies Brady on bonding trips to Montana.  

Brady has engineered four sensational late-game postseason comebacks over the last four years, with Amendola playing a starring role in each of them. Perhaps his most impressive performance came during the AFC championship Sunday against the Jaguars, reeling in seven catches for 84 yards and both of Brady’s TDs. The Patriots came back from a 10-point fourth quarter deficit to win the game 24-20. 

“I’m thankful for my opportunity here and what it’s been for the past five years,” Amendola told reporters after the game. “I have a lot of great memories here. Any negative thing that’s tried to hinder me, I’ve tried to ignore and focus on the positive things going on in this building for the last five years, and try to build off that and be a good teammate. That’s the only thing I focus on.”

Amendola’s Patriots coming out party happened in the 2014 Divisional Round against Baltimore, following a disastrous regular season that he largely watched from the sidelines. He caught five passes for 81 yards and two touchdowns in that game, including an immaculate reception from Julian Edelman on a trick play that tied the game at 28. The Patriots trailed the Ravens by 14 points in the third period. 

Three weeks later, Brady connected with Amendola for the fourth quarter touchdown that launched the Patriots’ 10-point comeback in Super Bowl XLIX against Seattle. As a reward, the Patriots restructured his contract and lowered his base salary that offseason.

In Super Bowl LI, Amendola played a pivotal role in the Patriots’ historic 28-3 comeback over the Falcons, catching the first of three New England touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime. The Patriots once again reduced his salary in the offseason, cutting his base salary by roughly $4.5 million. 

This year, Amendola's presence was more important than ever, with Julian Edelman tearing his ACL in the preseason. Amendola stepped up, catching 61 passes for 659 yards. 

His proclivity for producing in big spots was never more apparent than it was Sunday, as Rob Gronkowski left in the second quarter with a concussion. While Brandin Cooks caught six passes for 100 yards, Brady went to Amendola when the game was on the line. His last, and game-clinching touchdown, was a picture-perfect grab in the back of the end zone. 

Oh, and Amendola’s 20-yard punt return late in the fourth quarter set up his final TD catch. 

A free agent in the offseason, it seems unlikely the Patriots will reward Amendola financially in the offseason for his latest playoff heroics. Instead, he’ll have to settle for high praise from Belichick, which is hard to come by. The coach dismissed Brady’s effort, saying the quarterback did not overcome “open-heart surgery” to throw for 290 yards and two scores five days after gashing his hand.

But Belichick would not stop gushing over Amendola.

“Danny is such a good football player,” Belichick told reporters. “If you look up ‘good football player’ in the dictionary, his picture is there beside it.”

The rest of New England was probably nodding in agreement. Amendola has gone from reviled to revered. 

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