Giardi: Amendola injury presents challenges for McDaniels, Patriots

Giardi: Amendola injury presents challenges for McDaniels, Patriots

Losing Julian Edelman is like losing a fair amount of lung capacity. In previous seasons, his ability to do whatever needed to be done allowed you to breathe easier. You could bank on him and that production coming out of the slot.

Danny Amendola was supposed to be that guy back when the Patriots signed him in 2013. Turns out he’s not, but it’s hardly a critique. His durability will always be in question. He’s just not built to absorb kill shot after kill shot. However, Amendola’s a hell of a lot closer to being a key part of this Patriot team’s anatomy than say, your appendix. So it was curious to see the Pats throw caution to the wind and roll out Amendola play after play after play in Thursday night’s opener.


Thirty-two snaps at wide receiver. Seven punt returns. No surprise to see him break. Amendola suffered a concussion.

So much for the general feeling that Amendola would be on a “pitch” count, and the Pats would monitor his playing time like they had the year prior. 
“Well, if a player’s cleared to play and he’s healthy, then we would, for the most part, just operate normally like any other player,” Bill Belichick said Monday when asked if a player’s past injury history would alter the manner in which he was deployed. “It might depend on the individual circumstance or situation, but I think if the player’s healthy, then we treat him like he’s healthy."
Earlier this summer, Amendola gushed that he felt like he was 24 years old all over again. That said, the Pats took a cautious route with the 31-year-old, holding him out of practice for a time, then not letting him be a full-go for others. Preservation seemed to be very much at the forefront of Belichick and the training staff’s mind.

Did the Edelman injury change that?  Should it have?

The answer both before Amendola’s injury and now after is the same: Hell no.

We know what the player’s body can tolerate. He’s not as sturdy as Edelman, and, let’s not forget, Edelman hasn’t been an ironman either. He missed seven games in 2015. A couple the year prior. Now he’s done before the season starts. That position chews you up and spits you out. When Wes Welker left New England, he was already cooked, no matter what the numbers in his first season in Denver say. The requisite quickness had been used up.

Amendola is still quick. He was the only reliable target Brady had in the loss to the Chiefs. A half-dozen catches for a hundred yards even. The only player who consistently beat man-to-man coverage. That’s why the Pats kept leaning on him, until he finally broke.
From the moment Amendola exited, the Pats offense went from slightly erratic to awful. The first offensive play went for 54 yards on that bomb to Brandin Cooks down the left sideline. After that, the Pats ran 22 plays for a grand total of 35 yards, and one of those plays went for 26 to James White. (Where did he go Thursday night?) That’s about as inefficient as a team can be, from an offense and a quarterback that are consistently the most efficient in the league. At one point, Brady flipped a deep pass down the field to Philip Dorsett, who just arrived in Foxboro days prior. Dorsett and the football were barely in the same area code. Hard to prepare for such a scenario, but it underscores the overall impact of both Edelman and Amendola.
“Yeah, I mean this happens or you have to be ready for it to happen each week so it’s truly not anything new,” said offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels the day after the loss. “We've had players that have less experience that have to play and you have to adjust and still give everybody out there an opportunity that they’re comfortable doing, that they know how to do well.”
Based on the play calling for a better part of the night, but certainly after Amendola exited, what McDaniels decided they do well is run as fast and as far as they can go. Evolution of the offense? More vertical than horizontal? Or limitations based on time and skill-set of those that remained in the lineup.
“Whether we have to shrink some of the things we could or couldn’t do, that’s just part of football,” said McDaniels. “Each week whether it’s before the game starts you have injuries or inactives or whatever it might be, or during the game you have an injury that may affect something. That happens to every team every single week during the year. We have no excuses whatsoever. We didn’t play good enough. We didn’t coach good enough. It starts with me on offense. We've got to do a lot of work here to try and make progress and improve, so hopefully, we can play better next week.”

With the potential of being without Amendola Sunday in New Orleans, McDaniels will be challenged again. This is on him to find a solution. He’s got a bunch of puzzle pieces. He needs to find the right fits. And when Amendola finally does return, it’ll be on the offensive coordinator to protect the guy who was his best playmaker in Week 1 because he won’t protect himself.


Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31


Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

SEATTLE - Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons did enough through 3 1/2 quarters that even the best comeback attempt by Russell Wilson fell short this time.

A couple of yards short to be exact.

Ryan threw a pair of touchdown passes, Adrian Clayborn returned a fumble 10 yards for a score and the Falcons watched Blair Walsh's 52-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds fall short, holding off the Seattle Seahawks for a 34-31 win on Monday night.

Atlanta won its second straight to stay on the heels of New Orleans and Carolina in the NFC South, and handed Seattle a second consecutive home loss.

"What an absolute team win from the guys tonight," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. "Coming here, in this environment, with the crowd, we thought it would be two competitive, tough teams that were going to battle for it in the biggest way."

Ryan threw TDs to Mohamed Sanu and Levine Toilolo, while Tevin Coleman added a 1-yard TD run on Atlanta's opening possession.

But it was Clayborn's fumble return that helped break the game open early in the second quarter and gave Atlanta a 21-7 lead. He scooped up a loose ball after Wilson was crunched by Takk McKinley and Courtney Upshaw.

"I think we're moving in the right direction. We keep proving we can finish games and beat guys. We have to take the momentum and keep rolling with it," Clayborn said.

With Seattle down 11 points, Wilson hit Doug Baldwin on a 29-yard TD with 3 minutes left and then threw to Jimmy Graham for the two-point conversion. Seattle got the ball back and moved in range for Walsh, whose attempt was on line but landed short of the crossbar.

"That was in our range, and in hindsight I would have just driven it more," Walsh said. "I would have driven it more and not left it short. I was too accurate and didn't have enough on it."

Wilson again was the entirety of Seattle's offense, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns, and running for another 86 yards and a TD.

But it was an awful night for the Seahawks, filled with more injuries and questionable decisions by coach Pete Carroll. He called for a fake field goal late in the first half rather than attempting a 35-yard kick. He also made a questionable challenge in the fourth quarter that didn't go his way and left Seattle with just one timeout.

That lack of timeouts came back to haunt Seattle on the final drive when seconds ticked away and rather than running one more play, Walsh was sent out to attempt the 52-yard kick. His long for the season is 49 yards.

The conclusion only amplified Carroll's baffling decision at the end of the first half, when Seattle ran a fake field goal rather than having Walsh attempt a 35-yarder that would have pulled Seattle within 24-20. Holder Jon Ryan completed his shovel pass to Luke Willson, but Grady Jarrett read the play and tackled Willson for a 4-yard loss.

Willson said Atlanta's defense on the play was different than what Seattle had seen on film.

"It would have been a really good call if we had made it," Carroll said. "Terrific opportunity right where we wanted it and the defensive tackle made a better play."

Seattle played a game for the first time since the end of the 2010 season without Richard Sherman. His streak of 99 consecutive starts in the regular season was snapped because of a torn Achilles tendon suffered against Arizona. The Seahawks were also without safety Kam Chancellor because of a neck injury, leaving their vaunted secondary with several new faces.

"Those two are phenomenal players. ... It was a lot different," Sanu said. "They did a lot of different things but we just had to take advantage of our routes."


Ryan was more than happy to pick on a defense without Sherman and Chancellor. He was 19 of 27 passing for 195 yards and rarely faced pressure. Seattle had one sack, and the Falcons went 9 of 14 on third-down conversions.

Sanu made a great one-handed grab for a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Ryan found Toilolo on a 25-yard TD in the third quarter to give Atlanta a 31-20 lead. Matt Bryant added a 19-yard field goal with 3:49 left to put the Falcons ahead by 11, and Wilson's late heroics weren't enough.

Ryan's streak of 64 straight games passing for at least 200 yards was snapped.


Seattle's injury woes continued. The Seahawks lost rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin to a concussion on the second play of the game, forcing newly signed veteran Byron Maxwell into a more prominent role than expected.

Early in the second half, promising running back Mike Davis was lost to a groin injury after taking a screen pass 21 yards. Davis had two receptions and had carried six times for 18 yards before getting hurt. Seattle also lost starting guard Oday Aboushi in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.

Atlanta got a scare when safety Keanu Neal was checked for a concussion in the first half. He was cleared to return.


Falcons: Host Tampa Bay on Sunday to open a three-game homestand.

Seahawks: Travel to division foe San Francisco on Sunday.


EX-PATS PODCAST: How Belichick the perfectionist will find flaws in win vs. Raiders


EX-PATS PODCAST: How Belichick the perfectionist will find flaws in win vs. Raiders

0:55 - Patriots playing great as they stream roll the Raiders but Koppen explains that Belichick will knock them down as he strives for perfection. Also talk about how it takes a couple months into the season for the coaches and players to learn each other again.

5:40 - Stephon Gilmore playing excellent lined up against Michael Crabtree. Malcolm Butler bounces back but gives up the only score to Amari Cooper. Koppen suggest Butler’s contract situation might be affecting his play. 

7:50 - All in on the Patriots defense yet? Giardi and Koppen discuss the defensive play and the upcoming offenses the Patriots will be facing.

10:30 - Dan Koppen talks about job security in the NFL and if he ever worried about somebody else taking his job, and the cutthroat nature of the Patriots. 

13:50 - Tom Brady picking apart the Raiders and Jack Del Rio’s defenses throughout his career. 

17:45 - A debate about Patriots backup quarterbacks and if Matt Cassel was actually a good NFL QB. 

21:20 - A few game notes: Rex Burkhead’s fumble vs. the Raiders, LaAdrian Waddle filling in for Marcus Cannon.