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.