The Indianapolis Colts signed former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch six days before playing his ex-team in Saturday’s divisional round.
The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Branch had 518 catches for 6,644 yards and 39 touchdowns over a career spent mostly with the New England Patriots. Branch also has 64 receptions for 948 yards and four TDs in 17 postseason games. He won two Super Bowls and was MVP during the Pats’ third title run.
To make room, Indy (12-5) put starting cornerback Greg Toler and defensive end Fili Moala on injured reserve. The Colts promoted receiver Josh Lenz to the active roster and released defensive tackle Christian Tupou from the practice squad.
Blank backs coach, GM
Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank fully supports coach Mike Smith and general manager Thomas Dimitroff and believes they’ll lead his team back to the playoffs in 2014.
In his first public comments since Atlanta ended a 4-12 season, Blank said Monday that despite a major collapse in 2013, Smith and Dimitroff have earned the right to change the team’s fortunes next season.
“If I felt for any version of a New York minute that we didn’t have the right leadership and ability to make that happen in 2014, we would make additional changes,” Blank said. “I don’t think those changes are necessary because I think we do have ability, but that goal and that desire is my standard.”
TV ratings up
The New Orleans Saints’ 26-24 win against the Philadelphia Eagles was the most-watched Saturday wild-card game on NBC with 34.4 million viewers. The Indianapolis Colts’ 45-44 win over the Kansas City Chiefs had 27.6 million viewers.
NBC said Monday the average of 30.8 million viewers for the two games was an increase of 14 percent from last year’s weekend.
On CBS, the San Diego-Cincinnati game was seen by 30.9 million, the highest viewership in 19 years for an early AFC wild-card game.
Around the league
A punchless offense in the final two games kept the Miami Dolphins out of the postseason, and they’ll have a new play-caller in 2014. Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was fired Monday, the first change by the team since the holiday collapse. Coach Joe Philbin defended Sherman the day after the season, but owner Stephen Ross was expected to demand some sort of shake-up following the dismal finish. … The New England Patriots have placed linebacker Brandon Spikes on injured reserve because of a knee injury. Spikes is New England’s fourth key defensive player to be lost for the season. The other three – tackles Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly and linebacker Jerod Mayo – went on injured reserve in the first half of the season.