FOXBORO — The season-ending knee injury to Julian Edelman put Danny Amendola in the role of senior member of the Patriots’ receiving corps.
The veteran wide receiver proved himself worthy during the team’s final scoring drive of Sunday’s 33-30 loss to the Carolina Panthers. He was called upon three times to produce, and he delivered three catches each time, including a game-tying, 1-yard touchdown from Tom Brady on fourth-and-goal. After the score, he spotted a flag honoring Edelman, grabbed it and hoisted it as the crowd went wild.
“I have a ton of confidence in him, I always have,” Brady said. “We’ve played together for a long time, and he’s such a clutch player. He made a great catch there at the end, really got a lot of separation from the safety, and it was a play we needed at the time.”
Trailing 30-23, the Patriots marched deep into Carolina territory where they were faced with a third-and-3 at the Panthers 25. Brady fired a short pass to Amendola on the left and he hauled it in for a first down despite getting crunched by cornerback James Bradberry.
Later in the drive, he caught a 10-yarder from Brady, giving the Patriots a first-and-goal from the 6. Three plays later, Amendola got open in the middle of the end zone to catch the game-tying score.
“I was confident; we had the momentum,” said Amendola, who finished with six catches for 42 yards. “We tie the game, but we needed that one last possession.”
That possession never came as the Panthers ate up the final three-plus minutes of regulation. Amendola thought he was going to get an opportunity when Deatrich Wise Jr. sacked Cam Newton for an 11-yard loss on third down, but Stephon Gilmore was flagged for illegal use of hands, giving the Panthers a fresh set of downs.
“It came down to a penalty on third-and-long,” Amendola said. “That kind of switched the momentum. I’ve got to look at film and see the whole game, but that was a rough one.”
The loss dropped the Patriots to a 2-2 and there is no time to dwell on that with a road trip to Tampa for a Thursday night game this week. While it was pointed out that the Patriots started the 2014 season with the same record before going on to win Super Bowl XLIX, Amendola preferred to focus on the here and now.
“We take it one week at a time, one game at a time,” Amendola said. “I have a lot of confidence in our team. We have a tight-knit group, and we just have to play better.”