Patriots

Brady calls Amendola 'uncoverable' - 'He's getting away from people no matter what the route'

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Brady calls Amendola 'uncoverable' - 'He's getting away from people no matter what the route'

FOXBORO -- Danny Amendola couldn't hold back his smile. 

The Patriots receiver had just been told by a reporter that Tom Brady, moments earlier, referred to him as "uncoverable." There may be no greater compliment for someone who plays Amendola's position. 

"Whatever Tom says," Amendola replied, beaming.

Brady had a point. Amendola has caught 23 of the 27 targets sent his way this season, and among receivers with at least 20 targets this season, Amendola has the league's best catch percentage.

He's on pace for an 86-catch, 1,000-yard season -- both of which would be career-highs.

"He’s had such a great year," Brady said. "I mean, I can’t say enough good things about Danny and everything he’s meant to our offense. I mean, he’s so tough and, to me, he’s uncoverable. You turn on the tape, he’s getting away from people, no matter what the route, no matter who’s on him, no matter what’s called, leverage, distance of the route."

With Julian Edelman out, Amendola has been on the receiving end of some of Brady's quicker-hitting passes. He's also become one of Brady's security blankets in gotta-have-it spots, converting seven third downs in four games played, which is tied (with Rob Gronkowski, Larry Fitzgerald and others) for fourth-most in the league.  

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"I think Danny’s kind of always found his role in the things we’ve asked him to do," Brady said. "He’s still in that role, and he’s doing a great job of it. I mean, he’s doing as good as he possibly can. I don’t think anyone could do better than what Danny’s doing."

Against Tampa Bay, Amendola caught all eight of his official targets for 77 yards and he picks up five first downs. He also returned three punts for 51 yards, and his 40-yard return may have gone for more had he not been run into by teammate Brandon Bolden.

"I thought Danny gave us a lot of critical plays in the game," Bill Belichick said on Friday. "He gave us punt returns, some catches and he blocked well. He had a couple of key blocks in the running game, as well, so I thought he really did a solid job for us in all the areas, in all of the things that he was asked to do, which he usually does. He's one of our best and most dependable players."

Brady clearly feels the same way about the 5-foot-10, 185-pound pass-catcher.

"He’s just been so great for us this year," Brady said. "I’m going to try to keep finding him because when you have that kind of trust, when you see it play after play after play -- you know, you’re the quarterback. You’ve got one ball. It goes to the guy who’s open, and Danny’s always finding a way to get open."

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

Tom Brady on pace for huge numbers, so why is he down on his play of late?

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady is on pace for 5,224 yards passing in 2017, just a shade under his total from his career-high in 2011. He's on track to have 34 touchdowns and just five picks. Barring a continued run of ridiculous efficiency from Kansas City's Alex Smith, those numbers would be MVP-caliber in all likelihood.

But Brady's not thrilled with the way he's played of late. What gives? 

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In his past two games, he hasn't thrown the football as consistently as he would have liked. After starting the season with a 10-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he's 3-to-2 in the last couple of weeks. His accuracy has been at times pinpoint (as it was on his 42-yard completion to Brandin Cooks to help set up a Rob Gronkowski score against the Jets), but it has also been uncharacteristically erratic.

He was picked deep down the middle of the field by Buster Skrine last week, but the more concerning throw may have been the quick out-route to Gronkowski that Skrine dropped for what should have been an easy interception. Brady missed Phillip Dorsett on what looked like it could have been a long touchdown with Dorsett running free behind the defense. He threw behind Chris Hogan twice in the game, one of which opened up Hogan to a rib-shot that landed him on the injury report this week.

Against the Jets, Brady was not sacked and he was hit only four times -- a light day for him compared to other weeks this season when he's been battered. Yet he still completed just under 53 percent of his passes for 257 yards and a season-low 6.76 yards per attempt. 

"Well, I've got to hit the open . . . If the throws are there I've got to be able to make them," he said on Friday. "It's disappointing when I don't. To me, it just comes back to technique and fundamentals and making sure everything is working and that's the consistent daily thing that you're working on. I'm always working on my accuracy.

"I wish I hit them all. I'm capable of hitting them all and I need to be able to do that. I said last week that some of these games wouldn't be as close if I was playing better in the red area. I think some of those missed opportunities in the pass game with me hitting guys would really help our team. Hopefully, I can do a better job for this team."

Brady is no longer listed on the Patriots injury report, but he dealt with a left shoulder injury against both the Bucs and the Jets, and it's worth wondering if that somehow impacted how his passes traveled in those games. Balance is key in Brady's world, and even though he can make flat-footed throws look easy, perhaps an injury to his front side limited his ability to place the ball where he wanted. 

Keeping Brady upright could go a long way in helping the 40-year-old regain his form from Weeks 2-4 when he didn't dip below a 104 quarterback rating. Bill Belichick said earlier this week that part of the reason the Jets pass-rush wasn't quite as effective as others they'd faced this year was his team's ability to run the ball. Productive rushing attempts on first and second down mean manageable third downs, which mean shorter pass attempts. Those of course, in theory, lead to less time standing in the pocket and a healthier quarterback.

"It's great," Brady said of his team's recent surge running the football. "I mean, to be able to run the ball consistently in the NFL is important for every offense. It does take a lot of . . . I wouldn't say pressure, it's just production. If 400 yards of offense is what you're looking for and you can get 150 from your running game, the 250 has got to come in the passing game. If you're getting 50 yards in the rushing game then it means you've got to throw for more.

"I don't think it's pressure it's just overall you're going to get production in different areas and the backs are a big part of our offense and handing the ball off to them is an easy way for us to gain yards if we're all coordinated and doing the right thing. But those guys are running hard. The line is doing a great job up front finishing blocks and so forth."

Against the Falcons and their talented -- though underperforming -- offense this weekend, the running game could be key. First, it could help the Patriots defense by controlling possession and keeping Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman off the field. Next are the obvious advantages for the signal-caller who could use a stress-free day in the pocket to help him solve his recent accuracy issues. 

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