The Amendola Interception: Tipped Ball Drill

New England’s victory over Denver was a team effort, and the Patriots excelled in all three phases of the game. Danny Amendola, the subject of much scrutiny and hyperbolic praise this season, was involved on three key plays Sunday afternoon. In Part 1, Mark Schofield reviews the tipped ball that was intercepted.

In the Patriots’ big win over the Denver Broncos, New England quarterback Tom Brady turned in a stellar performance, completing 33 of 53 passes for 355 yards and 4 touchdowns and an interception. Slot receiver Danny Amendola is the subject of this week’s film review. In Part 1 we look at his involvement in the team’s lone offensive turnover of the day, while Part 2 examines his two receptions that produced clutch third-down conversions for the offense.

On New England’s opening drive of the second half and with the team facing 3rd and 11 on their own 46-yard line, Josh McDaniels puts his QB in the shotgun using 11 personnel. Denver has a sub package with six defensive backs on the field showing Cover 2. The Patriots attempt the “high-low opposite” scheme on this play with Amendola and tight end Rob Gronkowski: the wide receiver will run a short crossing route from the right while the tight end will run a deeper crossing route from the left:

As Brady releases the football Amendola is crossing over the middle at the New England 48 while Gronk is cutting along the Denver 45:

The end zone view gives a better angle of how this play breaks down. Before the snap the Broncos show pressure with five defenders on the line of scrimmage. Defensive tackle Malik Jackson (circled in blue) is between center Bryan Stork and right guard Ryan Wendell in the A-Gap:

Denver does not blitz here, but off the snap of the ball Jackson angles his line of attack to Stork’s left shoulder, in the opposite A-Gap:

The DT bursts through the gap between Stork and left guard Dan Connolly, immediately breaking into the pocket. Pictured below, Jackson has a red carpet unfurled between himself and the QB, who is searching out Gronkowski on his route. With both linemen missing their blocks, Jackson is in position for a big hit:

Brady doesn’t flinch and makes a the throw in Gronkowski’s direction, who then cuts inside in preparation for the first-down catch. But here comes Amendola:

The final still for this play shows Gronkowski in great position for the reception, but the undercutting WR reaches up for Brady’s throw first:

The ball squirts through Amendola’s hands and pops in the air long enough for cornerback Bradley Roby to make the interception:

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This is the risk of underneath crossing routes. Because two players are in the QBs line of sight at different depths, a precise pass can look – to the short receiver – like a “high” ball intended for him. Amendola makes a split-second decision to reach for the football and he cannot secure the reception. Unaware of the coverage behind him, Amendola cannot simply let the ball fly by him, as it might come to rest in the waiting arms of another defender. He attempts the difficult catch and the play results in a tipped turnover.

All video and images courtesy and NFL Game Rewind.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.

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