Amendola's Return Provides Big Boost

Posted Nov 11, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO – Any questions about Danny Amendola’s value to the Rams were answered resoundingly last year when he was lost for the season to a triceps injury.

But on Sunday at Candlestick Park, what anyone who was paying attention got to see is that Amendola’s multi-faceted abilities go well beyond the province of just the Rams.

When it comes to a discussion about the top wideouts in the league, it might just be time that Amendola’s name is included in the conversation. If you didn’t know, now you know.

“Danny is special,” running back Steven Jackson said. “For him to come back and give us that dynamic that we need on the outside, he stepped up really big time. I am really happy for him and the way he played today.”

The way Amendola played Sunday against the 49ers vaunted defense really wasn’t much different from his usual hair-on-fire approach but considering it was his first game back from a shoulder injury that kept him out since the Arizona game in early October, it again proved just how valuable he is.

When all was said and done, Amendola had jitterbugged his way through the Niners defense to the tune of 11 catches for 102 yards as he repeatedly came up with clutch catches to keep drives and the Rams alive.

“It was great to get him back,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “He is a football player. He made tough catches, tough runs, it was just really good to get him back. Clearly he’s a spark in our offense.”

Unfortunately for Amendola and the Rams, his big day could have been even bigger, like 142 yards bigger if you include punt return yardage.

Amendola was the unfortunate victim of a pair of costly penalties; one that cost him an 80-yard catch that would have given the Rams a first down at San Francisco’s 2 in the opening moments of overtime and another that returned a 62-yard punt return that also would have put the Rams in position to score a touchdown in regulation.

“It’s unfortunate,” Amendola said. “It’s the way it goes sometimes. We have just got to play smarter and go from there. I haven’t seen what the penalties look like on film but it is what it is.”

No play was more crushing than the flag that came out on the 80-yard catch, a flag that came out well after the play was over and the officials had huddled up to discuss it. 

“They threw the penalty late, too,” Amendola said. “I felt like we were right where we needed to be to win the game at that point and unfortunately it didn’t happen.”
Clearly, though, getting Amendola back was a boon for an offense that had stagnated in the past two games with him absent.

Amendola began practicing on a limited basis in London but wasn’t ready to return to play the Patriots. But he slowly worked his way back into more involvement in practice and though he was limited in practice during the past week, he remained adamant that he would play against the Niners.

Also resuming his punt return duties, Amendola had his way with San Francisco’s defense as he caught 11 of the 12 passes targeted for him with eight of those grabs going for first downs.

When his day was over, Amendola said the overtime tie was “tiring” but that he came out of it feeling fine. 

“Yeah, I’m all right,” Amendola said. “It feels good. I didn’t break it or anything again so it was a good day.”

While Amendola has his way of understating his own abilities, he’s sufficiently impressed plenty of his teammates, not least of which includes quarterback Sam Bradford.

Bradford’s rapport with Amendola has been long documented and when Amendola suffered the shoulder injury, nobody was more disappointed than the quarterback. Getting his favorite target back left Bradford searching for superlatives. 

“You can’t say enough about him,” Bradford said. “He played his heart out today and made a lot of big plays for us. It just shows what we have missed the past couple of weeks with him in the slot. He did a great job of getting open when they played him one on one. It feels good to have him back on the field.”

FAKED OUT: Fisher and the Rams coaching staff pulled out all the stops to try to get the Rams their first road win on Sunday. Included in that was a pair of punt fakes, though only one of those was actually called specifically from the sideline.

Both fakes worked as punter Johnny Hekker completed both of his pass attempts for 40 yards, one to safety Rodney McLeod for 21 yards and another to tight end Lance Kendricks for 19 yards and a huge first down to keep a late drive alive.

The former was not a called fake though Hekker and his teammates are instructed to throw to the wide open receiver if his man moves toward the line of scrimmage for a punt block. It’s essentially a hot read and Hekker and McLeod executed it to perfection to keep a drive going late in the first half.

“When you are coming off and leave the guy out there and the punter can pick it up and throw it out there,” Fisher said. “Sometimes we’ll put it on, put it off or call if off but that’s how we do things here.”

The second fake came late in the fourth quarter as Hekker faked a handoff to Amendola, rolled to the left and hit Kendricks for a 19-yard gain and another first down on a drive that ended in Austin Pettis’ 2-yard touchdown grab. 

“I felt like that was a play that we needed and it kept a drive alive and obviously gave us a chance to put the ball in the end zone,” Fisher said.

MOVIN’ UP: Rams running back Steven Jackson hit another milestone in his illustrious career, passing Torry Holt for second place on the team’s all time all purpose yards list with a 3-yard run to open the second half.

It was just another feather in Jackson’s cap on a day when he ran for 101 tough yards against one of the league’s toughest defenses and inspired his team and coach in the process.

“I mean Steve is Steve,” Fisher said. “You saw the way he played, the way he ran, the passion that he plays with and like I said, I enjoy standing on the sideline watching him play. I am glad he’s on our team.”

QUICK CATCHES ON: Rookie receiver Brian Quick continues to tantalize with his potential and took a big step forward Sunday when he caught his first career touchdown on the Rams opening possession.

Quick burst off the line and got out of press coverage with a swift, strong stiff arm, caught a pass in stride from Bradford and then broke out another stiff arm to finish a 36-yard touchdown catch and give the Rams an early lead.

“It was a great feeling,” Quick said. “All my teammates surrounded me and that’s all you can do is just go out there and play hard for your teammates and that’s what I did. It felt great.”

SITTING IT OUT: While Quick was making the most of his chance, the Rams had two key rookies on the sideline in street clothes. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins and receiver Chris Givens were inactive.

“They violated team rules and they were deactivated,” Fisher said. “It’s a decision I made yesterday.

“It is an issue that is between me and the players, the club and the players and they violated the rules and I deactivated them. As to whether they play next week or not, I don’t know. We’ll see.”