Mark Schofield counts down his five most important New England Patriots offensive plays of the year, with Danny Amendola and the scramble drill checking in at #3. Click here for Play #4: Julian Edelman and Play #5: Tim Wright.
Top 5 Patriots’ Offensive Plays of 2014 – Play #3 – Danny Amendola Breaks Free – Week 7 at Jets
Divisional battles in the NFL are difficult: Familiarity and contempt breed close contests. In recent years, the games between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets have been competitive matchups with the last four games decided by a touchdown or less, despite the Jets return to irrelevancy in the standings. The Patriots edged their rivals in both meetings this season, winning by two points in Week 7 and a single point in Week 16.
In the first game, New England clung to a narrow lead early in the fourth quarter and appeared poised to add to it on 1st and goal at the Jets 3-yard line. But a series of sacks and incompletions – and a pass interference penalty on Brandon LaFell – brought up 3rd and goal from the 19.
Putting 11 personnel on the field, the Patriots empty the backfield and station their quarterback in the shotgun. New England has an inverted slot formation to the right with Julian Edelman on the inside and Shane Vereen outside. LaFell and Rob Gronkowski sandwich Danny Amendola, forming trips to the left. New York counters with its dime personnel, using a goal-line Cover 2 in the secondary:
Amendola runs an out pattern, but pressure on the edge forces Tom Brady to break the pocket. That’s when it happens ‒ the scramble drill:
As Brady rolls to his left, Amendola goes off script and breaks vertically to the end zone. Cornerback Antonio Allen has the out route covered from his zone, but fails to quickly recognize Amendola’s adjustment. The WR accelerates away into space, gaining separation from the defender. But Amendola’s not done:
Brady’s throw is off the mark and to the outside, forcing the receiver to contort his body in mid-air back to the sideline in order to secure the football. He does, and tumbles into the end zone with the crucial touchdown:
After the game, Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan commented that Amendola “ran the greatest route in the history of football.” While his comment was in jest, it conveyed his genuine frustration at seeing another divisional battle with his bitter rivals slip away:
For New England, it signified an important win to begin the toughest stretch of the schedule. The victory improved the Patriots’ record to 5-2 and gave them a three-game winning streak in the wake of their Monday night Week 4 debacle in Kansas City. Amendola’s touchdown ‒ only his fifth reception of the season to that point ‒ was a bright spot in what had been a slow start to his campaign. His playing time had been limited in previous games with three catches nullified by penalties. Indeed, this catch marked his only scoring play until his two-touchdown outburst in the Divisional Round against the Ravens.
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Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
All video and images courtesy the NFL and NFL Game Rewind.