This year’s NFL free agency has really bummed me out. The first day dawned upon us, and almost instantly, a handful of New England fan favorites bolted for other teams. I mean, I understand it … players want the opportunity to make more money, but goodness, at least take my feelings into consideration a little bit.
Just kidding. This is sports. It happens. It’s a never-ending cycle. Professional athletes are similar to eating food … they come, and then they go.
So in honor of the handful of players that have left Foxboro for new adventures, here is the first entry in my series of farewell tributes. This one is for wide receiver Danny Amendola, who joined the Miami Dolphins in free agency on Tuesday …
No. 80 came to the Patriots as a free agent prior to the 2013 season, after an injury-plagued tenure with the Rams that lasted four seasons. He was the immediate replacement for Wes Welker, who left New England to go to Denver after the Pats were toppled by the Ravens in the 2012 AFC title game. It was immediately assumed that Amendola would be filling that void left by Welker, as in being Tom Brady’s No. 1 target, the guy that, when in doubt, he’s throwing to 9 times out of 10. In Week 1 of the 2013 season – Amendola’s debut with the Pats – he caught 10 passes for 104 yards, with three of them being crucial third down conversions and two of them being on the game-winning drive, in a 23-21 win over the Bills.
After just one game, we had already forgotten about Welker.
However, it turned out the Welker role would ultimately be filled by Julian Edelman in an unexpected twist. Nevertheless, the role assumed by Amendola wasn’t any less crucial to the success of the Patriots. He wasn’t Brady’s number one guy, but he was a very close second. He came through in the clutch more times than anyone could care to count. When the game was on the line and the ball was coming to him, you never had to worry about him dropping a pass. His hands were as good as any wide receiver in the league.
Amendola’s most memorable moment during his five-year tenure with the Patriots came in the divisional game against Baltimore during the 2014 playoffs. The Pats fell behind by 14 points not once but TWICE in the game, and both times, they battled back to tie it up. The second time, Brady tossed a backwards pass to Edelman (a former quarterback at Kent State), who then heaved it down field to Amendola for a 51-yard touchdown that knotted the game 28-28. The Pats went on to beat the Ravens 35-31 in one of the most memorable playoff games ever played in Foxboro, and that trick play will continue to live in the memory of Boston fans for many years to come. I’ll never forget where I was or what I was doing when it happened. It was just one of those moments.
A few weeks later in Super Bowl 49, the Patriots again had to battle from behind (it’s become a recent staple of New England football) against the Seattle Seahawks to overcome a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Amendola caught a crucial touchdown pass from Brady that turned the momentum in favor of the Pats, and set up Edelman to catch the game-winning touchdown that would give New England its fourth Super Bowl title in franchise history.
Amendola caught another touchdown in Super Bowl 51 two years later, and received his second Super Bowl ring when the Pats overcame a 28-3 deficit against Atlanta (sorry for bringing it up again, Falcons fans).
In 2017, in what would turn out to be his final season with the Patriots, Amendola stepped up when Edelman went down with a season-ending injury in the preseason. He spent much of the year being Brady’s main receiver, along with the younger Brandin Cooks. In the 2017 playoffs, Amendola earned the nickname “Danny Playoff” because … well … he’s Danny Playoff. He caught two touchdowns in the AFC Championship Game – yet another game in which the Pats had to come from behind – a 24-20 win over the Jaguars at Gillette Stadium.
And just like that, five years with Danny Amendola had come and gone. It’s amazing how that happens. It seems like it was just yesterday that he was catching those third down conversions in Week 1 against Buffalo, or catching the trick play touchdown pass from Julian Edelman against Baltimore. Where did those five years go? I’m going to miss them.
The Pats will get to see Amendola twice again next season, but he’ll be wearing the Dolphin teal and orange. It just won’t be the same. But nevertheless, in five years with the Patriots, Amendola contributed heavily to two Super Bowl-winning teams. Can you really ask for much more than that out of any player? Sounds like a pretty good success story to me.
Thanks for the memories, Danny. Good luck in Miami, even though I’ll be rooting for your team to lose.