5 Players who must step-up for Patriots

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4. Danny Amendola

First off, Amendola deserves claps for what has already been an outstanding season. Remarkably, he has caught 40 of the 48 passes Brady has thrown his way, good for an 83 percent catch rate, which dwarfs any other receiver on the team. With 40 receptions, 403 yards and a pair of touchdowns, Amendola is on his way to having not only his best season as a Patriot, but also his best season as a pro.

It didn’t take very long for Amendola to step-up for the Pats in Week 10. As soon as Edelman exited the game, it was Amendola who received the bulk of Brady’s attention, and that was especially evident on the game-winning drive. Amendola made several crucial receptions in crunch time, including the all-important 4th and 10 conversion as well as the catch-and-run that led to Stephen Gostkowski’s 54-yard field goal.

Related: Danny Amendola earns praise from Bill Belichick

Going forward, Amendola cannot rest on his laurels. He will have to work his tail off to get open for Brady, and that will require being on the same page as Brady mentally, something Edelman is extremely good at (even better than Wes Welker was).

At this time last year, Amendola was largely an afterthought in the Pats’ offense. Flash forward 12 months, and he’s the most important component in the aerial attack not named Rob Gronkowski.

Next: 3. Brandon LaFell