Amendola Gets Open: The Lean and The Rub

Strength in all three phases of the game led New England to a big win over Denver. Our recaps have already discussed Tom Brady’s touchdown throw to Brandon LaFell, and Rob Gronkowski’s big night. Part 1 of the film review looked at Danny Amendola’s Interception, and Part 2 focuses on two key 3rd down conversions in the second half that kept the chains ‒ and the clock ‒ moving.

The Lean

Danny Amendola provided two big third-down conversions in the second half, the first of which came on this play, we dub “The Lean.” Following a Denver touchdown that cut New England’s lead to 13, the Patriots’ ensuing possession found them facing 3rd and 8 after two big stops by the Broncos. Tom Brady is in the shotgun with 11 personnel, while the defense responds with six defensive backs showing Cover 2. Amendola is to the right of the formation in a tight inverted slot along with LaFell:

Amendola executes a vertical release and the Broncos roll their coverage to Cover 3. The next image shows the WR triangulated by defensive backs. Two of them will settle into underneath zones while Aqib Talib (circled in blue) sticks with Amendola on his vertical route:

Pressure forces Brady out of the pocket but this is not a scramble drill situation. Amendola continues his route while Talib tries ‒ unsuccessfully ‒ to keep up the receiver. When Amendola cuts to the inside he is wide open:

How did the WR break open on the inside? With a subtle move we call “The Lean:”

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At the top of his route Amendola jerks his head and shoulders to the outside, making contact with Talib. This sells the CB on the outside cut, and Talib bails to the sideline. The WR breaks back inside and is open for the reception:

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This nifty bit of technique from Amendola pays off in a big way, keeping the Patriots’ drive alive.

The Rub

The wide receiver’s second catch of the game also provided New England with a key third-down conversion. This is one more example of symbiotic play design, with Amendola now the beneficiary of work from teammate Julian Edelman. The offense faces 3rd and 11 at the Denver 46-yard line with just over one minute remaining in the 3rd quarter. Brady is in the shotgun with 11 personnel against Denver’s nickel that shows Cover 2:

Amendola motions in behind Edelman and as the ball is snapped the two receivers are in a stack-slot formation. Both WRs execute vertical releases at the outset of the play. Gronkowski delays and releases to the sideline as a safety outlet for the QB:

Denver stays in Cover 2 Man Under for this play. About eight yards downfield Amendola begins to cut inside:

However, his fellow wide receiver continues vertically, creating an obstacle for Chris Harris. These videos show how the CB hangs in with Edelman long enough to create space for Amendola off his cut:

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That extra second that Harris stays with Edelman produces the window of opportunity for the offense.


Amendola’s two receptions played a big role in the contest, helping keep two New England drives alive. While the second sequence exemplifies the importance of play design, the first illustrates the ability of the veteran receiver to gain separation when needed. His lean move to the outside sells Talib on the cut to the sideline, and Amendola breaks inside for his quarterback.

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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