Brady, Branch team up in Patriots’ comeback win in OT
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Four years after leaving the Patriots, Deion Branch felt like – and played like – he’d never been gone.
New England reacquired Tom Brady’s old reliable receiver five days after trading Randy Moss and, with less than a week of practice, Branch sparked a comeback from a 10-point deficit to a 23-20 overtime victory Sunday over the Baltimore Ravens.
He capped that with two key catches that set up Stephen Gostkowski’s 35-yard field goal with 1:56 left in overtime.
“Tom and I have been away for four years and I honestly don’t feel we missed a beat,” Branch said.
He had seven receptions after the Ravens (4-2) took a 20-10 lead three seconds into the fourth quarter and finished with nine, the most he had in a regular-season game since catching 13 against San Diego as a rookie in 2002 after the Patriots drafted him in the second round.
“We’ve known each other for a long time, so I think the chemistry’s there,” Brady said.
The Patriots (4-1) won their eighth straight game after a bye. The Ravens’ three-game winning streak came to an end.
When Moss was traded to Minnesota on Oct. 6, fans worried the Patriots would struggle without their only deep threat. But Branch gave them plenty of reasons to forget those concerns and the team’s embarrassing 33-14 playoff loss to the Ravens in the first round last season.
“You can’t compare him to Randy, (Moss) is such a dynamic player,” Ravens cornerback Chris Carr said, “but Branch has proven he can win.”
“If we see them in the playoffs we will be ready again,” Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis said.
“Not perfect, but he did a lot of good, like he always did,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of Branch. “He got open and caught some balls. Let’s not make it too complicated.”
Branch’s first grab in the fourth quarter was a 5-yard touchdown four minutes into the period, cutting the lead to 20-17. The Patriots then forced the Ravens to punt and marched from their own 14 to a third down at the Baltimore 3 – with the help of four catches by Branch – and settled for Gostkowski’s 24-yard tying field goal with 1:51 left in the quarter.
In overtime, the Ravens punted three times and the Patriots punted twice. The winning drive started at the New England 38 and Brady immediately went to Branch for a 23-yard gain on the first play. A 10-yard completion to Branch produced a first down at the Ravens 21 and Gostkowski kicked the winning field goal after two runs by BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
“It’s very rewarding to be the last person to touch the ball and walk off winners,” Gostkowski said.
Bal—FG Cundiff 26
NE—Green-Ellis 2 run (Gostkowski kick)
Bal—Heap 16 pass from Flacco (Cundiff kick)
Bal—Boldin 25 pass from Flacco (Cundiff kick)
NE—FG Gostkowski 38
Bal—FG Cundiff 25
NE—Branch 5 pass from Brady (Gostkowski kick)
NE—FG Gostkowski 24
NE—FG Gostkowski 35
|Total Net Yards||377||394|
|Time of Poss||40:14||32:50|
RUSHING—Baltimore, Rice 28-88, L.McClain 3-7, Flacco 2-5, Boldin 1-(minus 1). New England, Woodhead 11-63, Tate 1-22, Green-Ellis 10-20, Hernandez 1-18, Morris 1-3, Brady 2-1.
PASSING—Baltimore, Flacco 27-35-0-285. New England, Brady 27-44-2-292.
RECEIVING—Baltimore, Mason 8-100, Rice 8-38, Boldin 4-63, Heap 3-49, Houshmandzadeh 2-24, Dickson 1-7, L.McClain 1-4. New England, Branch 9-98, Welker 7-53, Woodhead 5-52, Hernandez 4-61, Gronkowski 1-24, Crumpler 1-4.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.
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