New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 13: Danny Amendola #80 of the New England Patriots catches a pass as he is defended by Logan Ryan #26 of the Tennessee Titans during the fourth quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

  • Few players had an impact on the Patriots dynasty like Danny Amendola.

    Originally signed to a five-year deal in 2013, Amendola’s Patriots run got off to a rocky start. He played just 12 games and caught just 54 passes for 633 yards, a far cry from the slot receiver he had ostensibly replaced, Wes Welker.

    But late in the 2014 season, Amendola suddenly emerged as one of Tom Brady’s most trusted targets. He began to build a resume of big plays in January (and February), which earned him the not-so-subtle nickname “Danny Playoff Amendola” from Rob Gronkowski.

    Amendola is retiring from the NFL after a solid 13-year career, as reported by Adam Schefter on Monday. He played for five teams, but he will easily be best known for his time with the Patriots and big-time playoff performances catching passes from Brady.

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  • “He was a good football player,” head coach Bill Belichick said of Amendola, when informed of his retirement on Tuesday. “Glad we had him here, and he certainly was a big contributor for us while he was here for the most part – I mean he missed a little time but, he was out there every chance he could be. He was tough and he was – he’s a good football player.”

    In total, Amendola made 617 catches for 6,212 yards and 24 touchdowns in 163 career games. But of course, he will be remembered more for his 57 catches and six touchdowns in 13 playoff games, all with the Patriots.

  • Amendola had enough clutch moments in a Pats uniform from 2013-17 that he’s in a similar class to Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and Deion Branch. Not many other receivers can claim the kind of special connection with Brady that Amendola can.

    So, with that, here’s a look back at the five biggest plays of Amendola’s Patriots career. Feel free to tell me how much my rankings SUCK, MIKE! on Twitter or via email.

    5. 2014 AFC Divisional Playoff: The Double-Pass

    Although this is more of an Edelman highlight than an Amendola one, he easily could’ve choked and bobbled the ball. But of course, he finished the play.

    The Patriots had faced two separate 14-point deficits in the 2014 divisional round against the Ravens, but the now-iconic double-pass from Edelman to Amendola tied things up 28-28 at the time. Baltimore went on to take a 31-28 lead, requiring one more clutch drive from Tom Brady, but the double-pass has stood the test of time as the most famous play from that night.

    Amendola made more impactful catches in his career, which we’ll cover below. But you can’t have an Amendola list without “The Double-Pass.”

  • 4. Super Bowl LI: Overtime catch from Tom Brady

    Much like the Edelman double-pass, this play was more about who was throwing the ball than who was catching it. This pitch-and-catch was arguably the quintessential Brady play. Pinpoint accuracy, perfect timing, flawless execution on the biggest stage.

    But Amendola deserves credit for being in the exact right spot for Brady, a well-documented perfectionist. He reeled in the ball over his shoulder and kept both feet in bounds (he was a good toe-tapper), and most importantly, he did it in overtime of the Super Bowl, something that at the time had never even happened.

    So, just like the previous play on this list, you really can’t highlight Amendola’s career without including this catch.

  • 3. Super Bowl XLIX: Fourth-quarter touchdown

    Amendola’s touchdown catch in Super Bowl XLIX against the Seahawks is relatively forgotten from that game, because so many other massive moments took place around it. But without Amendola’s heroics in the fourth quarter of that game, the Patriots’ most pivotal Super Bowl win may not have happened.

    The Patriots were down 10 points at the time, and Brady’s now-famous fourth-quarter masterpiece had only begun. Amendola broke free down a short seam after a coverage breakdown by Seattle and instinctively threw up his hand. Brady soon made the throw, right in his hands, of course. Amendola then made the catch with Seahawks All-Pro safety Earl Thomas all over him in coverage.

  • Edelman generally gets the credit for sparking this drive and the Patriots’ fourth-quarter comeback with his iconic third-and-14 catch. But you can make the case that the Malcolm Butler play never even has a chance to happen without Amendola’s touchdown.

    2. 2017 AFC Championship: Go-ahead touchdown vs. Jaguars

    This could be where the list generates some #controversy. But I’m choosing to weigh the moments and the ultimate impact of these plays. It’s not Amendola’s fault that the Patriots ended up losing the Super Bowl after this game, but the shine came off a little bit.

    Still, this is arguably the best combination of skillful execution and big-stage heroics that Amendola ever delivered. The Patriots were in the midst of yet another one of Brady’s famous playoff comebacks, and truly needed this one, down four points in the fourth quarter. A strike from Brady, a leap and a toe-tap from Amendola, and you have a career highlight.

    This is the play that earned Amendola his “Danny Playoff” nickname, and it would’ve been the easy No. 1 play on this list had the Patriots finished off a Super Bowl title that year. But the top spot has to go to a play that doesn’t quite get as much credit as it deserves…

  • 1. Super Bowl LI: Game-Tying 2-Point Conversion

    There wasn’t anything fancy to the play. Quick throw-and-catch, and just cross the plane. But you have to factor in the moment of this two-point conversion from Amendola: despite all the Patriots had done to claw back from 28-3 to 28-26, if they don’t convert this play, it’s all for naught. The Falcons are very likely running out the clock and hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

    Not on Amendola’s watch. He deserves props for powering his way across the plane of the goal line with defenders draped over him and ready to stand up him. That this play was called shows a level of trust from Brady – and Josh McDaniels, for that matter – that few other pass-catchers had in New England. And he certainly proved them right.

    Looking back, the Amendola two-point conversion was the back-breaker for the Falcons. Once the Patriots won the coin toss and took the ball to start overtime, a Super Bowl-winning touchdown felt like an inevitability. And they wouldn’t have had that opportunity without the clutch play and toughness of Amendola in the biggest moment of the season.

  • Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.