Patriots

Amendola more than reliable, 'incredible' in win over Titans

Amendola more than reliable, 'incredible' in win over Titans

FOXBORO -- Patriots players came out of the woodwork with nicknames for Danny Amendola Saturday night.

"We don't call him 'Steady Eddie' for no reason," Matthew Slater said. "He's always doing what he needs to do to get open, catch the ball, move the chains. I call him All-Weather 'Dola because it doesn't matter whether it's cold, hot, snow. He's going to be out there, he's going to get open, and he's going to make plays."

PATRIOTS 35. TITANS 14


"He's just Danny 'Playoff' Amendola," Rob Gronkowski said. "For real. Every time the playoffs come, big games, he's always there. He's always stepping up his game."

Amendola made good on those monikers in his team's 35-14 Divisional Round win over the Titans, catching 11 passes in the bone-chilling cold for a postseason career-high 112 yards. Five of those catches were third-down conversions, including a 12-yard gain on a third-and-two that kept a second-quarter touchdown drive alive, and a seven-yard grab on a third-and-three in the third quarter that helped lead to another score.

"I thought he played incredible," Tom Brady said.

At one point, Brady and Amendola connected on some kind of telepathic level. Just over a minute into the fourth quarter, facing a third-and-10 play, Brady scrambled to his right and looked like he might try to run for a first down. But Brady saw Amendola working on Logan Ryan across the field, and he launched a fall-away throw that hung in the air for an eternity before falling into Amendola's hands for a first down. 

“We locked eyes early, and I could tell he was thinking about it," Amendola said. "I kept running and I knew I had a couple yards, and he looked back again and let it go, and it ended up working out."

Amendola factored into the Patriots game plan in a big way as they did their best to stretch the Titans defense horizontally. Because Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau didn't have many quick linebackers at his disposal, and because the Titans aren't considered strong tackling team, it made sense that the Patriots opted for plays that put Tennessee defenders in space. That suited Amendola's game. The first play of the night, for instance, put Amendola in motion and saw him turn a short catch in the flat into a six-yard gain. 

"You get in these tough situations, [your] season's on the line every week in the postseason," Slater said. "You want to go out there going to your most dependable players. Can you think of a guy who's been more dependable since he got here?"

Amendola has been the picture of reliability in the playoffs since joining the Patriots. In 10 games, he's reeled in 42 catches for 473 yards and four scores, and he is personally responsible for some of the most memorable moments in recent Patriots playoff history. 

There was last year's Super Bowl, in which he caught eight passes, a touchdown and a two-point conversion. There was Super Bowl XLIX, when he caught another score and helped his team come back against the Seahawks. Two games prior to that one, he caught two touchdowns -- including one from his good friend Julian Edelman -- to beat the Ravens in the Divisional Round. 

Amendola didn't put up gaudy statistics in the regular season in 2017. He tallied 100 yards once, in a Week 1 loss to the Chiefs, and he finished the year with 61 catches for 659 yards and two touchdowns. But he's healthy, just as he was at the end of last season, just as he was at the end of 2014. And now after a few quiet weeks -- the last time he broke 50 yards receiving was when he caught six passes for 76 yards in a Week 12 loss to the Dolphins -- he's on track to have another extremely productive January. 

When asked about Amendola's contributions to Saturday's win, Bill Belichick referenced a long list of characteristics, the same list of characteristics that have earned Amendola an array of nicknames -- some creative, some not so much -- from his teammates. 

Belichick's voice dripped with reverence, and maybe a touch of awe, as he went trait-by-trait on the 5-foot-11, 190-pounder who has consistently been one of his team's best players in January and February the last few years. 

"Danny has great concentration, tough, really a smart football player," Belichick said. "Makes good decisions, good judgment. Knows how to get open, makes some big catches in tough situations. So, he’s kind of guy you take for granted, but he delivered a lot tonight, as he always does."

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Gronk buys 'substantial stake' in Gronkowski the horse

Gronk buys 'substantial stake' in Gronkowski the horse

When will we see Gronk back in action?

Try May 5 in the Kentucky Derby. The thoroughbred named Gronkowski is a Derby hopeful and the Patriots tight end has acquired "a substantial stake" in his namesake. 

"We are very excited to have this talented racehorse running in the Derby and to have Rob Gronkowski join our team," Tom Ludt of Phoenix Thoroughbreds said in a statement. "His involvement only adds to our growing credentials worldwide and can help us introduce the best of horse racing to a whole new audience."

Gronkowski the horse is based in England with trainer Jeremy Noseda and has received a Derby invite after earning the most points in the European Road to the Kentucky Derby series.

The Gronk Nation website reports that the Patriots tight end and his entourage will be at Churchill Downs in Louisville for the race.

Here's Gronk's thoughts, via Gronk Nation, on his namesake 3-year-old colt: 

“This horse is a winner and I love a winner. When I heard about the racehorse being named after me, I started watching and got really stoked when he started winning. He’s won his last three races and is now headed to the Derby. I’m all in: Welcome to the Gronk Family, Gronkowski the Horse!"

“I really can’t think of anything cooler than having a top-class thoroughbred named after me,” Rob added. “Except maybe having him win the Derby.”

 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Podcast: Will Tom Brady return?

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Podcast: Will Tom Brady return?

1:24 - The drama-filled Patriots offseason continues with Adam Schefter reporting that Tom Brady has not yet confirmed that he’ll be playing this upcoming season. Albert Breer joins Tom Curran and Michael Holley to give their takes on Brady’s indecision. 

6:11 - Co-author of an in-depth biography on Tiger Woods, Jeff Benedict joins the BST crew to discuss the endless stories about one of the greatest and most controversial figures in the history of golf.

12:14 - Adam Himmelsbach from the Boston Globe sits down with Kyle Draper and Tom Giles to talk about the emergence of Jaylen Brown in the playoffs and debate if his development has been a surprise.