2011-11-29 / Sports

Branch’s big game keeps Pats rolling

BY HOWARD ULMAN The Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.

Tom Brady pointed with his left index finger. Deion Branch picked up the signal and changed his route. The result was a 63-yard pass play.

On a team with star receivers Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski, Branch and Brady have a special chemistry that makes the New England Patriots offense even more dangerous.

The long connection came early in the second quarter of the Patriots’ 38-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Branch ran out of gas and was tackled at the Eagles 1-yard line, but Ben- Jarvus Green-Ellis rushed for the touchdown on the next play. Suddenly, the Patriots had a 14- 10 lead and never trailed again.

Branch finished with six catches for 125 yards, one of his best games of the season.

“Deion is a very instinctive receiver,” coach Bill Belichick said Monday. “He has a great sense of timing, of when the quarterback is ready to throw the ball, when he needs to be open, how to get open. Tom, from his position, kind of has that same sense of what the receiver would expect him to do and what he should do in certain situations and that’s almost always what Deion would do.”

The Patriots improved to 8- 3, tied for the best record in the AFC. They should improve on that Sunday when the Indianapolis Colts (0-11) visit. New England has scored the most points in the AFC. Indianapolis has allowed the most in the NFL.

Eight of the Colts losses have been by more than seven points.

Welker leads the NFL with 82 receptions and Gronkowski is tied for fifth with 60 and second with 11 touchdown catches. Even tight end Aaron Hernandez, with 47 receptions, is ahead of Branch’s 45.

But Branch can still help “ You have two smart guys, both very instinctive players, that if something comes up that you haven’t done or talked about before, I’d say both of them probably would do the right thing,” Belichick said. “ Or what you would want them to do if you haven’t told them what to do.

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