FOXBORO -- Danny Amendola hasn't usually been a fill-the-stat-sheet kind of player since he joined the Patriots. But in the most critical spots, he's among the most trustworthy receivers Tom Brady has ever played with.
Amendola and Brady served up more proof of their uncanny connection late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss to the Panthers, 33-30. Brady found Amendola on the back end line to convert a fourth-and-goal opportunity, effectively tying the game with 3:09 remaining. Amendola had three catches on the game-tying drive -- including a five-yard grab on a third-and-three play -- and he finished the afternoon with six catches for 42 yards in a losing effort.
Last week it was a 25-yard catch on a third-and-18 play during New England's game-winning drive against the Texans that served as the reminder of Amendola's late-game reliability. He had three catches for a total of 48 yards in the win.
PANTHERS 33, PATRIOTS 30
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The stats don't really the whole story when it comes to Amendola's role. And that's often been the case with him. In 2014, he finished the regular season with 27 catches. In 2016, he had 23 receptions. Both years, he finished the season as one of the team's most productive players in the Super Bowl, reeling in a combined 13 catches for 126 yards, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion in those games.
"Yeah, I have a ton of confidence in him," Brady said on Sunday. "You know, I always have. It’s just, it always keeps growing. I mean, we’ve played together for a long time, and he’s such a clutch player. He made a great catch there at the end, really got a lot of separation from the safety and that was a play we needed at the time. He played great all day."
How the Patriots use Amendola moving forward will bear watching. He's played 99 snaps in three games -- he missed Week 2 with a concussion -- and with Julian Edelman out, Brady seems to be relying on Amendola more than usual. He has seen 19 targets already this season, whereas last year he had 29 total in 12 games. With 15 grabs, Amendola's on pace to more than double last year's receptions number.
Would the Patriots ideally like to manage Amendola to have him healthy for the stretch run, as they did in 2014 and 2016? Without Edelman, they may not be able to afford to.
As of now, Amendola's a key part of an offense that has its quarterback on pace to throw for more than 5,000 yards.