Deion Branch Does What Randy Moss Probably Couldn’t Do and 19 Other Thoughts


Deion Branch Does What Randy Moss Probably Couldn't Do and 19 Other Thoughts The Patriots pulled out another throwback-style victory Sunday against the Ravens, playing well in all three phases of the game and gutting out a tough win to improve to 4-1.

There's plenty left on the plate to discuss over the last week's events, so here you are: 20 thoughts that you can read in just two minutes.

1. The Patriots-Chargers matchup is tough to call, but there is one certainty. Bill Belichick really seems to have the pulse of his team, while Norv Turner has anything but. That’s a huge advantage in the coaching category for New England.

2. Wide receiver Julian Edelman suffered a head injury in Sunday's victory against the Ravens, but he was in good spirits as he strolled through the Patriots' locker room like he always does.

3. Safety Brandon Meriweather would have benefited by discussing his helmet-to-helmet hit on tight end Todd Heap after the game Sunday — by showing remorse, saying he was trying to be aggressive and make a play, but he just missed his target. By ignoring the subject, he'll let the league's disciplinarians do the speaking for him.

4. Belichick said he thought about sending Stephen Gostkowski out to attempt a 62-yard field goal at the end of regulation Sunday, but the head coach obviously passed in favor of a Hail Mary attempt. Gostkowski's career long is 52 yards, but he did have the wind at his back and was slamming his kickoffs in that direction. However, such a long field goal requires a lower kick trajectory, which is conducive to blocks and run-backs. The Hail Mary, in this case, was actually the conservative route.

5. The Patriots will travel to San Diego on Friday after practice to get better acclimated to the time change. This is different from their first two road trips — New York and Miami — when they've departed one day prior to the game.

6. Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan is a close friend of Belichick's, and Washington used a handful of Belichick's famous UFO defensive schemes Sunday night against the Colts. Midway through the fourth quarter, there was a play when every Redskins defender was in a standup position and roaming over the line, and Peyton Manning was forced to call a timeout due to the confusion.

7. I haven’t joined the Randy Moss post-trade brigade, but I will say this: It's almost impossible to imagine him racking up seven receptions for 75 yards and one touchdown in the fourth quarter and overtime like Deion Branch did Sunday against the Ravens, especially if he only had two catches for 23 yards in the first three quarters against such a suffocating defense.

8. No offense to Tennessee and Jacksonville, but that’s not exactly a must-see Monday night game. I love the NFL's kickoff-weekend Monday night doubleheader, and they should consider doing that all season to counter the less-exciting matchups.

9. If you boom a 65-yard punt in overtime that changes field position, people are going to want to talk to you, and that’s what happened to a shell-shocked Zoltan Mesko on Sunday. "I'm very humbled," Mesko muttered. "I can't let this get to my head. I've got to keep working hard. I'll be back in the weight room with everyone else tomorrow."

10. It would have been complicated to trade left guard Logan Mankins by Tuesday's deadline for one major reason — he's not under contract. Even if the Patriots struck up a deal, Mankins was under no obligation to sign his contract to approve it.

11. Belichick has been asked multiple times about the absence of Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman. What you won't hear Belichick say is how useless Merriman has been over the last two-plus seasons, when he's compiled four total sacks. Merriman's absence is essentially addition by subtraction, but at the very least, it will halt the Patriots' celebratory dances in San Diego.

12. Aside from the quarterbacks, the Patriots have shed the red non-contact jerseys at practice this season. No one has worn one since Patrick Chung in the June offseason practices.

13. In regard to the potential 62-yarder Sunday, Gostkowski said he's made them from that distance in practice. "That's not my call," said Gostkowski, whose overtime kick was the first true game-winner as a Patriot. "I am not going to be the guy tapping Coach Belichick on the shoulder saying, 'Send me out there.'  I just get ready to go, and when my name is called, I do it."

14. Asked if the Patriots might practice in lighter pads this week after such a physical game against Baltimore, Belichick laid out the decision-making process and said, "There's nothing more important than the health of your team."

15. Sunday's game between the Patriots and Chargers will take place exactly six years after the Pats' 2004 win against the Jets, which set an NFL record with 21 consecutive victories, including regular-season and playoff games.

16. Tom Brady recorded his 30th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime Sunday, but it was just his seventh career victory after trailing by at least 10 points in the fourth quarter. What's more, it's only the third double-digit deficit he's erased since 2003.

17. Outside linebackers Rob Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham deserve a tip of the cap for their play Sunday, but Cunningham really stuck out. He was tremendous against the run, really contained the edge and helped the interior players penetrate into the backfield to make life tough for Ray Rice. The rookie second-round pick recorded a sack and forced left tackle Michael Oher to commit a holding penalty, too, and Belichick said Cunningham played "very aggressively." In short, Cunningham was everything Derrick Burgess failed to be during his short time with New England in 2010.

18. Director of player personnel Nick Caserio was asked Tuesday if anything was brewing before the trade deadline, and he joked, "I think we’ve taken care of that over the past few weeks, haven’t we?" So true, with trades involving Moss, Branch and Laurence Maroney, the Patriots might have just orchestrated the most high-profile series of in-season trades in league history.

19. De facto offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien was discussing the amount of conversations he has on the sidelines during the game when he dropped a pretty funny line Tuesday, sort of out of nowhere. "Obviously, Bill [Belichick] has input on that. Bill says, 'We may want to open the series this way.' It's usually a hell of an idea, and we’ll do that."

20. Rookie safety Ross Ventrone was added to the Patriots' practice squad this week. Since his older brother, Ray, was so commonly referred to by his nickname, "Bubba," Ross was asked during training camp in August if he had a similar nickname. Apparently, it's "Rusty Benson," which dates back to the fifth grade and has been shortened to "Benson" by the Patriots' defensive backs. As for the story behind that nickname, well, Ventrone only said it was a long one that he didn’t really want to get into.

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