"I'm like, 'Baby, we're going back home,'" Branch said Sunday after the Patriots' 23-20 overtime victory against the Ravens at Gillette Stadium.
Branch was in his element against the Ravens, catching nine passes — the same total as Randy Moss in four games with the Pats this season — for 98 yards and one touchdown. Branch had seven receptions for 75 yards and the score in the fourth quarter and overtime. And both of his grabs (for 33 yards) in the extra session came during the Patriots' game-winning drive.
That’s why the Patriots reacquired him last week.
"It's like I never left," said Branch, who was greeted with a standing ovation after his first reception of the game. "I tried not to get all worked up before the game, but it was cool. [The emotion] came out a little bit."
Branch's connection with quarterback Tom Brady has been well-documented, and the two got off to an overzealous start during Branch's first practice last Tuesday. The coaching staff actually had to pull Branch from some drills because Brady threw it to him too much and wasn’t including anyone else.
"We’ve known each other for a long time, so I think that chemistry is there and it will be there for a long time," Brady said. "It’s great to have him out there."
Despite Branch's late-game heroics, he couldn’t forgive himself for a mistake he made late in the fourth quarter. The Patriots had a third-and-3 at the Baltimore 6-yard line, and they were trailing 20-17 with 2:01 remaining.
Brady changed the play at the line, and Branch thought it was supposed to be a run, so he started blocking the opposing cornerback after the snap. But when Brady held onto the ball, Branch attempted to get open prior to Brady's pass falling incomplete in Branch's direction. Branch was kicking himself after each of the Patriots' next four possessions — thinking he let the game get away — before coming up big on the final series of overtime.
Wide receiver Wes Welker appreciated Branch's resiliency, especially after Branch didn’t get much action in the early going. But when the importance of each play heightened and the Patriots were in the business of erasing a 20-10 fourth-quarter deficit, Branch showed up as though he never took that New England jersey off in the first place.
"It's great to have a competitor like him," said Welker, who had seven receptions for 53 yards. "He's going to compete every play, and he's going to give you his all, and run great routes, and be in the right spot and he's a very accountable guy. It's great to have someone like that out there on the field with you."