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In quiet season, Danny Amendola’s catches have proven loud

Danny Amendola finished the regular season with just 23 receptions, but most of which arrived in moments of significance.

It’d be easy to forget Danny Amendola set a new career-high with four touchdown catches in 2016. The New England Patriots wideout did so, after all, despite catching the second-fewest passes to date on his NFL resume.

Memorable would not be the right word to describe Amendola’s regular season. But it would be too broad of a brush to paint it as forgettable.

In the big picture, it was quiet. In glimpses, it was loud.

Amendola’s drop in production can be attributed, at least in part, to the fact the veteran receiver missed the final four games with a high-ankle sprain. It also can be contributed to the fact that the depth chart surrounding Amendola stands far less scarce than it did a year ago, when a fractured foot sidelined top target Julian Edelman for seven games and saw the likes of Keshawn Martin, Chris Harper, Damaris Johnson and Leonard Hankerson file through Foxborough.

Amendola caught a personal-best 65 passes then. In the process, he checked in with the third-most receiving yards – 648 – since he entered the league as a Dallas Cowboys undrafted rookie out of Texas Tech in 2008.

This year, he’d manage to catch only 23 for 243 yards.

But context proves key when tracing through 31-year-old’s 2016 campaign. It goes beyond the clean bill of health for Edelman, the emergence of free-agent signing Chris Hogan, the development of fourth-round pick Malcolm Mitchell, as well as the December waiver-claim of Michael Floyd.

Certainly, those ingredients cut into Amendola’s week-to-week usage. He played just 23 percent of New England’s offensive snaps over the course of the 16-game slate. He logged less than 20 snaps in seven of his 12 appearances. He ranked seventh on the team in receptions and receiving yards, too.

Yet while the volume was not there, Amendola’s number still often was.

No. 80 was called upon in moments of significance – even if the Patriot donning those digits isn’t one to devote more than a moment to acknowledging that.

“Well, I mean, I just try to stay ready whenever my opportunity arises,” Amendola said Monday on WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni & Fauria. “Just whatever the coaches ask me to do, really. Everybody has a job. We say it all the time. But the only thing we really focus on is getting your job done, whatever it may be.”

As coverages began to overlook his volatility, Amendola would break huddle as the third wide receiver and remind them. Sometimes the result was six; other times the result was a first.

That still held weight.

“What Danny does in his role, I mean, Danny has made huge play after huge play after huge play at the most critical moments for our team,” quarterback Tom Brady told reporters during his availability Tuesday.

Amendola turned all eight of his red-zone targets into completions during his limited 2016 regular season, scoring a pair of touchdowns against the Miami Dolphins and tacking on more against the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers.

Along the way, Amendola converted 14 of his catches into first downs. And on third down, according to Pro Football Reference, he either moved the chains or got into the end zone on 12 of the 20 passes sent his direction.

That will not make Amendola the top name on the Atlanta Falcons’ watch list leading up to next Sunday’s 6:30 p.m. ET kickoff. Having collected 12 receiving yards this postseason, there’s little case for him to be.

But Amendola will be in the Falcons’ peripherals. He’ll be playing in his second Super Bowl in three years. And this time, in Houston, The Woodlands native finds himself in familiar territory.

He’s hoping to make the journey count, much like his difficult catches to get there have.

“We actually lost in the state championship not too far from where we’re playing at NRG Stadium, so I have vengeance coming back to Houston,” Amendola said. “It’s going to be fun.”