When wide receiver Wes Welker moved on from the New England Patriots in March 2013, he left the biggest possible shoes to fill. After all, in six years in Foxborough, he had caught 672 passes for 7,459 yards and 37 touchdowns. He was seen as the prototypical slot receiver and made five Pro Bowls and two All Pro teams while in New England. Most importantly, he was a player quarterback Tom Brady could trust.
Thus, when the then 31-year old undrafted Texas Tech product left, many were wondering who would be able to fill his spot.
Enter Danny Amendola.
Amendola, another undrafted Texas Tech product, signed a five-year, $31 million contract and was widely regarded the next Wes Welker. He started his Patriots-career on the right food, catching 10 passes for 104 yards in his regular season debut against the Buffalo Bills. However, Amendola, who only had one 16-game season with the St. Louis Rams, hurt his groin in the game, and would miss the next four contests due to the injury. Even after his return, he was clearly still impacted by the groin tear (and finished the year with 54 receptions, 633 yards and two touchdowns)
Enter Julian Edelman.
In Amendola's absence, former Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman stepped up big-time. He ended 2013 with career highs in receptions (105), yards (1,056) and touchdowns (6). He became Brady's new go-to-guy. He became Minitron. In March 2014, Edelman signed a four-year, $19 million extension to keep him in New England through 2017. The next year -- this year -- he continued where he left off after 2013. Edelman had another productive year, finishing with 92 receptions for 972 yards and four touchdowns.
In the meantime, Amendola had to take a backseat. He played in all 16 games in 2014 but recorded only 200 yards and one touchdown on 27 receptions; often being option number four or five (behind Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Brandon LaFell and sometimes even Shane Vereen).
Edelman was the number one receiver in the slot, Amendola the number two.
On Sunday, in the divisional round against the Baltimore Ravens, however, there was no number one or number two. There was Julian Edelman. There was Danny Amendola. Both were making plays; seperate and together.
Edelman's 51-yard touchdown pass to Amendola was special in many ways. It was the former quarterback's first NFL (touchdown) pass, it was Amendola's first time he caught two touchdowns in an NFL game, and it was a scoring play to tie the Patriots' Divisional Playoff Game. It was Danny Amendola catching a pass from the man who had surpassed him on the receiver depth chart. And it was perfect.
It was not Amendola's only big play, though.
Brady targeted him on the Patriots' first third down play. After review, the pass was ruled incomplete, but they got another chance to connect later in the game: with the Ravens leading 31-28 in the fourth quarter, and the Patriots facing 3rd-and-6, Brady hit Amendola on a quick out-route two yards short of the first-down-marker. Amendola eluded a Ravens defender and stretched out to get the first down, while getting tackled. Three plays later, Brady found Brandon LaFell for the game-winning touchdown.
The 3rd-down-conversion was similar to Amendola's first reception of the game, a 15-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14:
Julian Edelman finished the game with eight receptions for 74 yards. Amendola had five receptions for 81 yards (and added 125 yards on kickoff returns). Both made plays and were integral parts of the Patriots' win over the Ravens.
There was no number one or number two.
There were two receivers, making plays, who are now on to the AFC Championship Game.