FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Go ahead, make the New England Patriots a one-dimensional offense.

Take away the running game and put the game in Tom Brady’s hands, as the New York Jets did Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.

Do your best to take away their top two receivers – tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Julian Edelman. Force someone else to step into the spotlight.

The problem for most defenses is that the Patriots have other players who can meet the challenge.

Sunday afternoon, it was wide receiver Danny Amendola who stepped forward. The seven-year veteran, in his third season with New England, caught eight passes for 86 yards and a touchdown in helping the Patriots rally for a 30-23 win at Gillette Stadium.

Amendola scored the go-ahead touchdown with 5:34 remaining in the fourth quarter to put New England up 23-20, then had three huge catches on New England’s next drive to set up the clinching touchdown catch by Gronkowski.

“Danny made some great plays, like he always does for us,” said Patriots Coach Bill Belichick. “Big catches over the middle, big catch on the sideline. He did a good job inside there like he always does, gave us some field position in the return game as well.”

Amendola thought nothing of his production.

“I was just focusing in and trying to do my job,” he said. “Tom (Brady) made some great plays. We made some great plays across the board.”

But on a day when Patriots receivers uncharacteristically dropped several passes – Brandon LaFell, in his season debut, dropped six; Julian Edelman dropped a sure touchdown pass, and James White dropped at least one ball – Amendola was extremely dependable.

He had nine balls thrown his way and caught eight.

He caught them over the middle, made a leaping catch on the sideline, and went high to catch his touchdown pass, holding on when the Jets’ Marcus Gilchrist undercut him and flipped him over.

Asked if he was aware that so many balls had been dropped, he said he wasn’t. But, he added, he knows what it’s like.

“If something bad happens, just forget about it,” he said. “I’ve been a victim of that in my career, too. So just try to forget about it, move on to the next play and focus on doing your job.”

Amendola, whose father, Willie, coached one year of varsity football at Massabesic High in Waterboro in 1987 (Danny was far too young to remember), has suddenly become a popular target for Brady.

In his last two games, he has caught 15 passes (out of 18 thrown his way) for 191 yards. In the season’s first four games, he had only 10 catches (on 13 targets) for 98 yards and a touchdown.

“You never know,” he said, when asked about stepping up. “We have a lot of playmakers on our team. We’re just focused on doing our job on each play and moving the ball.”

His touchdown catch was anything but easy. On third-and-6 from the 8, he lined up on the left and immediately liked what he saw.

“It’s a play we’ve been working on forever, we’ve had in the playbook forever,” he said. “And they gave us the look that I was confident that I was going to be open.”

Why?

“It was a zone and I knew that I had a chance,” he explained. “I’m like the second or third read on that (play). I just try to get open a little bit later in the play. Brady looked off and came back to me and it worked out. I knew with the play call and coverage they were in, I knew it had a chance.”

He cut across the middle and leaped to catch the pass at the goal line. As he caught it, Gilchrist hit him and flipped him over. But Amendola held on, rolling into the end zone.

“You don’t even think about it,” he said. “You just hit the ground and try to hold on.”

There were many people who didn’t think Amendola could hold onto his job with the Patriots. He caught 54 passes in his first season (2013) but missed four games because of injuries. Then last year, with the emergence of Edelman, the resurgence of Gronkowski and the arrival of LaFell, Amendola became a forgotten man, catching just 27 passes in the regular season.

But Amendola earned a role as a return man and stuck. Then in the playoffs, he caught 11 passes and scored three touchdowns, including one in the Super Bowl.

This year he started slowly, but he is once again earning Brady’s trust. With the game on the line, Brady found him three times for 31 yards during the clinching drive. His biggest catch on the drive was an 11-yarder on third-and-10 from the Jets 33.

“We knew it was going to be a battle,” said Amendola. ” Every Sunday you’ve got to get out there and lay it all out there and try to get a win.”

 


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