Hannable: Danny Amendola is perfect example of how fan perception can change

Ryan Hannable
October 12, 2017 - 12:23 pm

Troy Taormina/USA Today Sports

FOXBORO — Over the summer, as part of our 20 Most Important Patriots series, we listed Danny Amendola at No. 18, which drew a ton of criticism from many who felt he didn’t belong in the top 20 at all.

After five games in 2017, man has the perception changed. The same goes for Amendola’s entire tenure in New England.

Following the 2013 season, his first with the team, Amendola was one of the fans’ least favorite members of the team.

He finished the season with 54 catches for 633 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games. He battled injuries the whole season, which were worse than led-on. He essentially ripped his groin early in the season, which needed offseason surgery.

Then in 2014, he caught one pass in the first five games of the season. The biggest problem in fans’ eyes was his contract: five years and $28.5 million with $10 million guaranteed. Fans expected a lot more out of him, especially when he essentially was replacing Wes Welker.

While he hasn’t been close to as productive as Welker was, which is nearly impossible for any receiver, he’s become one of the most important players in the Patriots offense over the years partly because of how clutch he is.

“There’s no question that I think Danny Amendola has demonstrated his ability to make plays under pressure, perform in critical situations and help us win games,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said on a conference call recently. “I have a lot of confidence in him. I have a lot of confidence in our entire group that they’re going to be able to do that when they’re called upon in those types of scenarios.”

In Super Bowl XLIX, Amendola had five catches for 48 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown came with 7:55 remaining to cut the deficit to 24-21. Then in Super Bowl LI, Amendola had eight catches for 78 yards and a touchdown, as well as a key two-point conversion. With 5:56 left, Amendola caught a touchdown pass to make it a one-score game, and then with the game on the line with 57 seconds left, he caught a pass on the two-point conversion to force overtime.

Without Amendola, the Patriots do not win their two most recent Super Bowls. While the pure stats haven’t jumped off the page during the year, it’s about him making the most of his snaps, which have been scaled back to help him manage injuries.

This season, Amendola has got a first down on 65.2 percent of his receptions and has a catch rate of 85.2 percent. He ranks fifth among receivers in first-down percentage (minimum 20 receptions).

“I can’t say enough good things about Danny and everything he’s meant to our offense,” Tom Brady said Wednesday. “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. He’s just been so great for us this year. 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.”

In addition to being a team player on the field, he has been off the field as well. Amendola has taken a pay cut each of the last three years, with the latest being this offseason when his salary was cut to him making just over $1.6 million.

With Brady’s comments Wednesday, along with past praise from Bill Belichick and McDaniels, all fans are finally realizing just how vital Amendola is to the team.

“There’s nothing I don’t love about Danny Amendola,” McDaniels said. “Every time he’s out there, you feel good about what may happen if the ball is headed towards him, and he always comes up big in the biggest moments or biggest games.”

Amendola has gone from being No. 1 scapegoat in Patriot Nation just a few years ago to now perhaps being in the top five of most important members of the team.

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