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."


"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."


Is Tom Brady the GOAT? Jets legend Joe Namath believes so

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Is Tom Brady the GOAT? Jets legend Joe Namath believes so

It's universally understood in New England that Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback to ever. He's won more Super Bowls than any player ever and is in the NFL's top five in career passing yards, touchdowns and passer rating. 

Still, some around the country — perhaps those with personal vendettas against Brady and the Patriots — refuse to hand the GOAT status to TB12. Recently, NBC Sports' Chris Simms ranked Brady ninth among active quarterbacks heading into the 2019 season. 

But one legendary quarterback, Joe Namath, is with New England — and on the right side of history. During an appearance on Howard Stern's radio show on Monday, Namath unequivocally called Brady the best to ever lace up football cleats. 

"Tom is the best," Namath said. "I've been asked that question for many years. Johnny (Unitas) was great, Otto Graham, 'Slingin' Sammy Baugh, I'll go back. But meantime, Tom has been challenged, more in recent history, certainly, with more huge games than anyone I can remember."

Namath makes a good point. Brady has thrown the most touchdown passes (28 more than second place Joe Montana), has the most passing yards and has led the most fourth quarter comebacks (9) in NFL playoff history. He's also 6-3 in Super Bowls.

Namath famously won Super Bowl III after guaranteeing a victory and will always be a legend in the Big Apple, but New Yorkers might not be too happy with Namath now after he anointed their rival the GOAT.

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Former Bengal, Patriot Marquis Flowers opens up on the 'We're on to Cincinnati' game

Former Bengal, Patriot Marquis Flowers opens up on the 'We're on to Cincinnati' game

The New England Patriots weren't exactly in a great spot heading into Week 5 of the 2014 NFL season. The team was only 2-2 and was coming off a crushing 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football.

In that game, Tom Brady didn't look like his usual self. He had two picks, just 159 passing yards, and one touchdown pass that came when the team was already down 27-0. He was replaced late by Jimmy Garoppolo, who looked solid on the field. That led some to wonder if the Patriots dynasty was coming to an end.

Famously, after the game, Bill Belichick answered every question posed about the game with one simple response. "We're on to Cincinnati." The press conference went viral and put a spotlight on the Patriots' Sunday night clash with the Cincinnati Bengals.

That game ended up defining the season. The Patriots bounced back by smashing the Bengals by a final score of 43-17. Brady looked as strong as ever, and that was the first step for the Patriots to get back onto the Super Bowl path.

At least, that's how former Bengals linebacker Marquis Flowers remembers it. On Twitter, Flowers shared a brief memory of the game, including what his then-defensive coordinator said.

So, yeah. Clearly that type of hype up didn't work, especially since the Patriots were so desperate for a win at the time. And the "demise of the Patriots" storyline was clearly overblown considering that they've won three Super Bowls and appeared in a fourth since that game.

The D-coordinator's words and the headlines of the time make this an amusing anecdote that just makes the whole event that much better for the Patriots, in retrospect.

That said, It's easy to see why Flowers was able to laugh this off. Flowers was a part of the Patriots in 2017, so he has seen both sides of the "We're on to Cincinnati" game. Flowers likely enjoyed his time in New England, as he logged 30 tackles and 3.5 sacks in his best NFL season to date. He also got to play in the Super Bowl (although the Patriots fell in that game to the Philadelphia Eagles).

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