Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola may not be Wes Welker, but he looked a lot like him against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
It wasn't just the number of catches, but when they came. Seven of Amendola's 10 catches came on third down and picked up a first down. That's the kind of reliability in big situations that we came to expect from Welker.
So was Amendola's confidence in catching passes over the middle in traffic. A few of his most important catches of the day were also some of the most difficult.
Two catches on the final drive converted third downs into first downs. The first was on a modified slant pattern. Amendola would run forward one yard or less off the line of scrimmage before breaking inside. He would then change the angle of the slant slightly mid-route, to allow himself extra cushion in front of the defense.
Thus, it was no surprise to see him come away with the reception, despite three defenders in the area.
Hat tip to Tom Brady for fitting the ball into the tight window, but Amendola gets major points for concentration and for allowing himself to make the catch by adjusting his route.
He saved his best for last, with a 10-yard reception on 3rd-and-9 to set the Patriots up in field goal range, and allow them to kill the remaining time on the clock.
Amendola ran a seam route right through the middle of the defense, and found a soft spot in the coverage.
Once he hit his break, Brady threw the ball, leading Amendola inside. The shifty slot receiver leaped for the catch, coming down with it while absorbing a hit from the Bills defender.
On that note, one area that won't show up on a stat sheet or on game tape is Amendola's toughness. Aside from continually taking heavy hits on his catches over the middle, the veteran battled through a groin injury all week and was listed as questionable for Sunday's game.
He left the game in the second quarter after re-aggravating the injury, but that wasn't enough for Amendola, who probably got a bad vibe in the training room. He played through the pain and played a big part in the Patriots win despite that pain.
The Patriots offense didn't look like the well-oiled machine we've become used to seeing, but it looks like there's still one ultra-reliable component that bears a striking resemblance to the old model.
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