a 4th-and-2 catch
a 3rd-and-18 catch
a 20-yard punt return
2 touchdowns, including the game-winner
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) January 22, 2018
Seven catches. Eighty-Four receiving yards. Twenty yards on the final punt return. Two touchdowns and hell, twenty passing yards to boot. The Patriots do not put away and finalize yet another fourth quarter comeback without the manufacturing power of Danny Amendola.
It was a a day that caused everyone in New England to question whether or not they should head to the ER and get checked for an irregular heartbeat. From Jacksonville’s first snap on offense to nearly the start of the fourth quarter, it looked as though we were in for one of the most subdue, dull, and vanilla Super Bowls ever to be played. We were preparing to witness a, at the time, Blake Bortles versus either Nick Foles or Case Keenum showdown. There wouldn’t have been a scent of drama. There wouldn’t have been an ounce of angst. Instead we would have just watched what would have felt like a regular season game between two sub-par quarterbacks with an extended halftime show and above average commercials in between.
With one quarter remaining, it was time for the Patriots to turn the page to the same story we’ve read time and time again. They weren’t going home without a fight; and they weren’t going home without having a final game scheduled two weeks from that Sunday.
The final drive was engraved with a destined impact statement that began with yesterday’s hero, Danny Amendola. After already scoring one touchdown on the day, being Tom Brady’s main target on the game’s most critical third down play with 18 yards remaining, as well as being a fourth down target earlier in the game, Dola was lined up awaiting a punt as Jacksonville was backed up deep into their own territory after another brilliant stop by their surging defense with the Patriots trailing by just three with under six minutes remaining.
Jacksonville’s punter, Brad Nortman, took the snap and booted the ball to the fifty yard line where Amendola was ready and after catching the ball, broke left looking for some open space. If he can get his team into field goal position, after having little to no success on previous returns on the day, then he gives his team an opportunity to tie the game if they fail to move the ball. Amendola broke free for a gain of 20 yards on the punt setting up Tom Brady, Mr. Fourth Quarter, and the New England Patriots well in field goal range. Although, if you hadn’t heard the story already and had to make an educated guess, how would you think this game ends up with this scenario unfolding?
The Patriots have the ball in their hands and move it smoothly down field as Jacksonville for a majority of the second half decided it was a smarter idea to go away from what was working and play zone defense against one of the most methodical passers in the game’s history in clutch time.
Brady would manage to pick apart his opponents defense with a variety of passing attempts and runs bringing them to the four yard line where destiny was written in the sand. Brady would drop back to pass, the offensive line would hold up providing a clean pocket and Brady would buy just enough time for Amendola to shake free, create enough of a window for a pass and make a miraculous catch, tapping his feet to the ground putting the Patriots on top for the first time since their 3-0 lead in the first.
That single touchdown was the perfect staple to such a perfect game by Amendola. Amendola generally doesn’t receive the praise he rightly deserves but since the the clock struck zero in yesterday’s AFC Championship game, he has been talked about in the highest regard.
It’s the playoffs where it becomes apparent who can stand the heat and shine when the moment matters most. And we’ve seen this work positively for some members of the Patriots in years past, and negatively for others, but ever since Amendola came to New England he has been nothing but clutch.
The fact of the matter is that yesterday’s game was becoming bleak as time ticked down. In losing Gronk due to a concussion from a hit down field, not dirty in my opinion by the way, the Patriots needed to look to somebody else to make the big play. And in any situation he has ever been in with this team, Amendola always seems to step up when it matters most.
Yesterday’s star of the game was by far Danny Amendola. Of course if it were the Super Bowl, Brady would have walked away with the MVP. However much like James White in Super Bowl 51, that honor most likely should have gone to Danny Amendola after that top of the line, clutch performance.
See you in Minnesota, Philly.
Written By: Nick Quaglia (@NickQuag)