FOXBORO — The script was one people have seen in Foxboro for years: The Patriots finding a way to extricate themselves from a seemingly insurmountable fourth-quarter deficit to win.
They nearly did it again yesterday, rallying from 30-16 deficit to tie the score, only to watch the Panthers win the game, 33-30, on a 48-yard Graham Gano field goal as time expired.
“It was tough one today, coming down to the last play of the game,” wide receiver Danny Amendola said. “We fought hard, but hats off to the Panthers.”
As he did in Super Bowl LI against the Falcons, Amendola came up big down the stretch. On the game-tying drive, Amendola caught three passes, including a 1-yard TD pass from Tom Brady on fourth down, to even the score at 30 with 3:14 left.
“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.”
It should come as no surprise that Brady has a comfort zone with Amendola. Once Julian Edelman was lost for the season with a knee injury, Amendola is suddenly the senior member of the wide receiving corps and expected to deliver when needed.
That was certainly the case when Amendola managed to hang on to a 5-yard pass on a third-and-3 despite getting blasted by Panthers cornerback James Bradberry. His 10-yard catch gave the Pats a first-and-goal from the 6, setting up his score three plays later.
“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 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 game against Tampa for the dreaded Thursday Night game.
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…