The Branch is Back

Only two Patriots have won the Super Bowl MVP while wearing a Patriots uniform: Deion Branch and some guy you might have heard of named Tom Brady. When the Patriots host the Indianapolis Colts this weekend for the second round of the playoffs, both will be on the field, but they won’t be playing together. The Colts signed Branch this week, and will be sporting a blue horseshoe on his helmet instead of the Flying Elvis we’re used to seeing. Chuck Pagano and the Colts might be looking for an emotional advantage more than anything else.

Branch played in three Super Bowls as a Patriot, and was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX against the Philadelphia Eagles. I can’t help but think he could have played in more if the Pats hadn’t pinched their pennies in contract negotiations. They ended up losing Brady’s favorite target, even more than Troy Brown at that point in his career, to the Seattle Seahawks in the prime of his career. Branch, who is not know for his intimidating size or incredible speed, could not repeat the kind of chemistry and success in Seattle that he had with Brady in New England. When the Pats traded Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings in 2010, they traded to get Branch back from Seattle the same week. They hadn’t played together in five years, but it was as if Branch and Brady never missed any time as he helped the Pats go 14-2 that season.

It was clear last year that Branch had lost a step, and the Patriots decided not to bring him back this year despite injuries at the wide receiver position. Last year Brady had Branch, Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead, Aaron Hernandez, and Rob Gronkowski as targets, and all of those guys are now unavailable to him for one reason or another. Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Shane Vereen, LaGarrette Blount, and Stevan Ridley are his go-to guys now. Bill Belichick made a decision on him, and Branch is a Colt now, and he’ll be there on Saturday, but the Patriots did not need him. If they did, he would be in a Patriots uniform this week. I just hope that it doesn’t get into Brady’s head they way Lawyer Milloy did in his first game with the Buffalo Bills in 2003. On the other hand, Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia should know Branch’s game like the back of their hands and he should be a non-issue for New England’s defense. The Pats have bigger things to prepare for than Deion Branch, but it’s another thing that has the potential to distract them.

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