Danny Amendola delivers, earns place in Bill's special dictionary

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- No Rob Gronkowski. Twelve stitches in Tom Brady's right thumb. A 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

The New England Patriots, trailing on their home turf in the AFC Championship Game, desperately needed a spark. Along came Danny Amendola, who turned the final quarter into a personal pitch and catch with Brady.

Amendola made five of his seven receptions in the fourth quarter, including two touchdowns to lift the Patriots to a 24-20 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday night.

The diminutive wide receiver did everything except serve hors d'oeuvres in owner Robert Kraft's suite. He completed a pass on a gadget play, and he delivered a 20-yard punt return, setting up his own game-winning touchdown.

"Danny's such a good football player," coach Bill Belichick said. "When you look up 'good football player' in the dictionary, his picture is right there beside it."

Amendola has emerged as one of the catalysts for the Patriots' bid for a second straight Super Bowl championship, and isn't that ironic? He hasn't been fully appreciated in recent years. To stay on the team, he had to agree to a pay cut the past three years.

Now he's money.

"No fear," Amendola said of his playoff mentality. "Just get out there and get it done."

Recently dubbed "Danny Playoff Amendola" by Gronkowski, who left in the second quarter with a concussion, the biggest little guy on the field has 16 catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns the past two weeks. Facing the Jaguars, the best defense in the league, he combined clutch with acrobatic.

There was his diving catch for 21 yards on a third-and-18, maybe the biggest play of the game. At that point, the Patriots trailed 20-10 with 10:49 to play. If they didn't make that conversion, the outcome might have been different. A few plays later, Amendola scored on a 9-yard reception.

"That play kind of gave them momentum," said Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson, who was beaten on the play.

Then came Amendola's diving catch inside the Jaguars' 10-yard line, setting up the big one -- a falling-backward, toe-tapping grab in the back of the end zone for the game winner with 2:48 left in the game. Once again, he burned Gipson, the closest defender in zone coverage.

Memo to the Philadelphia Eagles: Don't use a safety on Amendola in the Super Bowl.

"He's made so many big plays for us, and that was huge," Brady said of the second touchdown. "Without that, we don't win. It was an incredible play."

Brady's No. 1 option on the play was Brandin Cooks, who ran a "whip" route. He was covered, so Brady looked to Amendola, who ran a crossing route in the back of the end zone.

"It's a play we've worked on," he said. "I scored on it a couple of times this year, I think, actually."

None bigger than Sunday.