Giardi: Amendola morphs into critical playmaker for Brady


Giardi: Amendola morphs into critical playmaker for Brady

FOXBORO - Noted this on Twitter, but maybe the best under-the-radar move the Patriots made this offseason was reworking Danny Amendola's contract. He has become a reliable target for Tom Brady. Trusted. That's no easy task. Ask any of the veteran receivers who came from elsewhere, tried and failed.

Amendola has also morphed into a playmaker, usually in critical moments. It was his his fourth-quarter touchdown Sunday versus the Jets that provided the go-ahead score, and his brilliant climbing the ladder catch on the following drive, that put the Pats on the Jets side of the 50 in a drive that eventually ended with Rob Gronkowski waltzing in the end zone yet another score.

I asked Gronk about the impact Amendola had. The All-Everything tight end go all wide-eyed before saying, “Amendola’s always making those crazy, acrobatic catches. He looks like a gymnast half the time...He’s super athletic. He’s that freaky athletic, where he can jump, he’s super quick, and he makes those kinds of catches, which look awesome.”

Bill Belichick couldn't hide his happiness with Amendola's performance either, which resuled in eight catches on nine targets, good for 86 yards, “Danny made some great plays, like he always does for us - big catches over the middle, big catch on the sideline."

Amendola has adhered to the Patriot Way, even when he lost his job to Julian Edelman. He spouts cliches, sometimes with a knowing grin on his face. But it's hard not to notice how much he enjoys playing, and in the postgame, I had a fun exchange with him, starting with that sideline catch that - as you just read - had everyone raving.

I said, “What's your vertical leap? Didn't see that coming out of Texas Tech."

He laughed, then said, "it's game jump. That's it."

"Okay, how do you prepare yourself for not only falling on your back like you did on that catch, but for getting smacked solidly twice on your touchdown?,” I asked. "I mean, no way that doesn't leave a mark."

"I practice every day as a hard as I can," he said, leaning on his cliches. "Offseason too. It comes down to one play on Sunday, and you know you gotta make it [Editor's note: That's what I was looking for]."

Amendola, 5-11, 188, is lean but solid, however he's not a big guy, not by any stretch of the imagination. Yet he often makes his living going over the middle and sacrificing his body to make catches like he did for the TD. Is it simply no fear?

With a smile, Amendola repeated those two words, "no fear," smiled again and then, no doubt, started thinking about the Dolphins, because that's what he's been coached to do. Good player. Good teammate. Good decision to bring him back, and for him to want to come back. All sides are benefiting.




BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Patriots-Steelers tale of the tape


BOSTON SPORTS TONIGHT PODCAST: Patriots-Steelers tale of the tape

0:41 - The BST crew breaks down the Celtics’ 107-95 loss to the Utah Jazz. A. Sherrod Blakely joins Tom Giles from the TD Garden and Michael Holley and Kayce Smith analyze Gordon Hayward’s pregame comments about his recovery and return.

8:07 - Do Bill Belichick and the Patriots attempt to shut down Le'Veon Bell or Antonio Brown this weekend against the Steelers? Tom Giles and Michael Holley discuss and Phil Perry and Kayce Smith break down the matchup with this week’s tale of the tape.

14:36 - The Red Sox watched another slugger get scooped up, as the Philadelphia Phillies signed Carlos Santana. Michael Holley, Kayce Smith and Tom Giles discuss Boston’s interest in still-available J.D. Martinez and how much he could cost the club.

Injury report: Branch out, 10 Patriots questionable


Injury report: Branch out, 10 Patriots questionable

The Patriots final injury report before their showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday includes 10 players listed as questionable and defensive lineman Alan Branch ruled out.

Branch, who hurt his knee in the Monday night loss to the Dolphins, missed three days of practice this week. Among the questionable are linebacker Kyle Van Noy and defensive lineman Trey Flowers, who didn't play against Miami. Tom Brady (Achilles), Brandon Cooks (hand) and Malcolm Butler (ankle) have been removed from the injury report. 

Cornerback Joe Haden (fibula) and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (hamstring) among the Steelers listed as questionable. The full injury report: