FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The perception of wide receiver Danny Amendola in New England took a dramatic turn in the second half of the Patriots’ Week 1 victory at the Buffalo Bills.
So, too, did the Patriots’ record after the first week of the season.
Entering his first regular-season game replacing Wes Welker in the slot for Tom Brady’s offense, Amendola was listed as having a groin injury. Then, in the second quarter on in Buffalo, the man who has battled the label of “injury prone” in his previous four seasons with the St. Louis Rams appeared to aggravate that injury and had to limp off and did not return to the field with the rest of his teammates following halftime.
Leading just 17-14 against the upstart Bills, the new-look New England offense looked like it would be without its projected top receiver. It appeared the injury bug had bitten Amendola again, and references to Welker’s incredible durability in his time in New England were prepared for dispatch.
“I didn’t really expect anything to happen in the second half. I thought he was going to be out for the rest of the game,” Brady acknowledged.
But Amendola was far from done. He hauled in seven passes in the second half on a gimpy groin. Five of those were for first downs. Four came as the only receiver to catch the ball on New England’s drive to a game-winning field goal with 5 seconds to play.
In less than a half of football Amendola went from potentially being seen as a banged up example of how the new Patriots offense didn’t measure up to its predecessors, to the leading receiver in a gritty comeback on a day that was less-than-stellar for the passing attack.
Amendola finished with 10 catches for 104 yards.
But the value to his own reputation and to the Patriots 23-21 victory was far beyond those simple numbers.
“Amendola is one tough player,” Patriots running back Shane Vereen said. “He took some shots, he was a little banged up, (but) he came through when we needed him to.”
As is so often the case, New England head coach Bill Belichick had a simple take on his new clutch playmaker’s performance in the Patriots 10th consecutive opening day victory.
“I thought Danny stepped up and made some big catches in some tough situations,” Belichick said.
“He really toughed it out, which was pretty impressive,” Brady said. “He battled all day, and we got held to the fire.”
And Amendola proved his mettle.
— RB Stevan Ridley put the ball on the ground twice in the first half against the Bills. The first time he was ruled down by contact, although replays showed that to be far from the case. The second came as the 2012 1,200-yard rusher slipped making a cut, fell to the ground untouched and lost the ball. Buffalo’s Da’Norris Searcy returned the loose ball 74 yards for the touchdown. And Ridley did not play another snap the rest of the way for the Patriots.
Ridley has dealt with ball security issues at times over each of his previous two seasons, and is facing the challenge yet again. But he certainly wasn’t surprised to be stuck on the sidelines after his loose ways.
“It was pretty obvious, man, you can’t have two turnovers in one game and expect to stay in,” he said. “The coaches had to do the best move for the team and make sure we won this game, and they picked the players that they went with and we rolled through and we’re lucky to pull out the win like we did.”
— RB Shane Vereen suffered a wrist injury in the opening day win in Buffalo, according to Fox Sports. Vereen reportedly broke a small bone in the wrist on the first play of the game against the Bills, going on to produce an impressive 159 yards of total offense and his first career 100-yard rushing effort after the injury. According to Fox Sports, Vereen was scheduled to have surgery on Monday and is expected to miss a “few weeks.”