EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 17, 2013

Amendola wows Pats fans in Foxboro debut

Amendola wows Pats fans in Foxboro debut

On Pro Football
David Willis

---- — FOXBORO — No one say the words “Wes Welker” yet.

No, seriously. I know you want to. Don’t say it. Resist the temptation.

It’s much, much too early to make a comparison to W_s W___er. (See, I followed my own rule.)

But really, how good did the connection between Danny Amendola and Tom Brady look last night?

Yes, it was only a quarter. Sure, it was only a preseason game. And yes, it was against a Tampa Bay squad that, let’s face it, no one is picking for the Super Bowl.

But there is no sense in denying what occurred on the Gillette Stadium turf last night.

Brady and Amendola were locked in.

The veteran QB and his new No. 1 receiver needed just two possessions to light up the stat sheet and the scoreboard during the Patriots’ 25-21 victory over the Buccaneers last night.

“Danny is the leader at this position now and he looked very good,” said receiver/special teamer Matthew Slater. “He has worked very hard. He’s a veteran and he knows we need him now.

“And Tom is Tom. He’s a little important to us.”

Amendola looked perfectly comfortable in his new role, grabbing six passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. He was the primary target for Brady, who delivered another masterful evening, completing 11 of his 12 attempts for 107 yards and the one score. That after they hooked up once for 6 yards in Week 1.

Both played just two possessions before their day was over. But it was two very, very impressive drives.

“We wanted to start fast and I thought we made some plays and got some really good work in,” said Amendola. “We got on the board early, which felt good. We’re working every day to get there (on the same page as Brady) and I feel like we are making good strides.”

It may be too early to go crazy about the Patriots’ prized new toy and his relationship with New England’s golden boy QB. But you can forgive Patriots fans for being a little psyched at what No. 12 and 80 were able to do last night.

It isn’t just the numbers — although 71 yards and a score in less than a quarter is pretty good. It’s how the two worked together in their second game as teammates.

Brady targeted Amendola on his first pass. It was a very Welker (sorry) type route to the sideline for a quick 6-yard gain in which he took a pop and held onto the ball.

After a short grab of 3 yards and another for 13 yards, the masterpiece was up next.

Brady dropped back and perfectly placed a pass to Amendola over three defenders. Amendola calmly kept his focus and snagged the ball for a 26-yard touchdown.

Perfect pass, perfect catch. Like they had been doing it for years.

“I had a post route and I played the coverage that was letting me go,” said Amendola. “It worked out and was great. Tom threw a great ball.”

Was the entire performance perfect? No, there was one blemish.

On the Pats’ second possession of the day, Brady and Amendola connected on completions of 9 and 14 yards before that one spot, when Brady missed a throw to the receiver on his final pass of the day.

And that was that on the otherwise flawless day.

“Tom works so hard,” said Amendola.

“He is so good because he just gets the job done so often. We are trying to get on the same track. He knows every bit of the offense and he leads us.”

The importance of the relationship between Brady and Amendola cannot be overstated.

If the Patriots have any prayer for a Super Bowl season, those two don’t just need to be on the same page. They need to be elite.

The trouble at the position is long documented. Mr. Reliable Wes Welker is gone to Denver.

Rob Gronkowski is out indefinitely. Aaron Hernandez is in jail. Danny Woodhead is a Charger and Brandon Lloyd (who did have 74 catches for 911 yards) is a free agent.

That’s the Pats’ top FIVE receivers from last season. The top returner is Julian Edelman (16 catches, 235 yards last year), and he is very much on the bubble to make this team.

Amendola has to step up. At least until — and if — Gronk is healthy. No. 80 has to be the go-to guy. He has to be the one that Brady can call on when the game is on the line.

He has shown those abilities in the past.

He has 196 catches for 1,726 yards and seven touchdowns in his four-year NFL career. Those are solid numbers. Not superstar numbers, but productive.

That, however, will not be good enough this season. He needs to be a true No. 1 receiver.

“He knows that we need him to be a leader,” said Slater. “He is working hard to do that.”

He has to be Welk.., Troy Brown or Deion Branch. Which is still setting the bar very, very high.