Deion Branch Feeling Like It’s 2003 and 19 Other Thoughts About Busy Patriots


Deion Branch Feeling Like It's 2003 and 19 Other Thoughts About Busy Patriots The dull moments have been few and far between this season at Gillette Stadium.

So far, the Patriots have seen Tom Brady get into a car accident, then signed him to an extension, and they’ve traded away Laurence Maroney and Randy Moss, while acquiring Deion Branch. Then this week, amid Moss’ Minnesota madness, Logan Mankins has decided to show up.

But those are the big headlines. Let’s take a look at 20 other storylines that may have gone unnoticed over the last week.

1. Wide receiver Deion Branch was asked if this season has reminded him of the 2003 season. “Just a little bit,” Branch said while flashing a smile. “I don’t want to start talking about that, you know what I’m saying? Because we did some things back in the past that I see that we can do here.”

2. Moss’ postgame news conference on Sunday was wildly bizarre, but it didn?t tell the whole story. Moss initially told a Vikings public relations staffer that he wouldn’t be going to the podium and he had nothing to say. Then, moments later, Moss sporadically changed his mind, found his way to the podium and addressed no fewer than 14 different topics during his five-minute statement.

3. Rookie cornerback Devin McCourty has turned into one of the AFC East’s top-four cornerbacks, and he acknowledged he has been able to play faster in recent weeks because he is reacting more than thinking. That?s a big reason for his two-game interception streak. “Yeah, I just feel more comfortable out there,” McCourty said. “I’m able to see some things now as they’re coming.”

4. And after seeing McCourty run stride-for-stride down the right sideline with Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin, who could potentially be the fastest player in the league, before breaking up a pass shy of the end zone, doesn?t a nickname like “Run DMC” suit the rookie well?

5. On that same play, Meriweather was lined up on the other side of the field over Moss, at least 25 yards past the line of scrimmage. It was the deepest Meriweather or any safety lined up in double coverage all game. Then, more impressively, Meriweather saw Brett Favre chuck it deep to Harvin, and the safety broke all the way down to the other side of the field and nearly caught up to the play. It was just another display of Meriweather’s speed, which is an asset when he’s playing with confidence.

6. Football players from the University of Miami have as much school pride as anyone in an NFL locker room, and each player typically has some sort of apparel in their stall. However, Meriweather has the best such item at Gillette Stadium. He’s got a sick pair of custom-made Nike Shox Turbo sneakers that are decked out in the Hurricanes’ orange and green.

7. The biggest concern regarding running back Danny Woodhead would be his ability to block in blitz reads, but Woodhead has actually done a good job in that area. In fact, running backs coach Ivan Fears called Woodhead a “doggone very effective” blocker.

8. Fears also said Tuesday that Sammy Morris has been the player who has taken charge and led the running backs meetings. Morris’ on-field role has been more as a fullback, and his carries have greatly diminished, but he has remained a really strong locker-room guy.

9. Bill Belichick commonly refers to defensive and special teams touchdowns as “bonus points.” Essentially, you don’t include a kick return for a touchdown in your game plan, so it’s considered a “bonus.”

10. One more thing on McCourty: On that long pass breakup, McCourty smacked his head on the turf and stayed on the ground long enough for the officials to call for a timeout. Even though McCourty knew he was fine, the official timeout requires the injured player to miss one play, and that was the first play McCourty missed all season. “I’m not worried about streaks,” McCourty said. “I wish I didn?t have to come out for a play, but it happened.”

11. The longer the Vikings take to officially waive Moss, the more you have to wonder if they’re intentionally trying to put Moss and his eventual new team at a disadvantage. Obviously, the deeper into the week Moss reports to his first practice, the smaller chance he has to effectively grasp the offense.

12. Moss has developed a reputation for treating certain people poorly, but this story is pretty disturbing.

13. And, about three-quarters of the way down this story, there was a nugget that former Patriots assistant coach Eric Mangini would regularly ask Belichick to cut star cornerback Ty Law. This was before Mangini was even the defensive coordinator, so you can see why those requests fell on deaf ears.

14. Branch also shared some in-depth comments about his embrace with Moss after Sunday’s game against the Vikings. “It was good,” Branch said. “I look up to a guy like that. I watched this guy develop into the Hall of Famer that he is. It was just a moment, I had to make sure I shake this guy’s hand, give him a hug and let him know I appreciate you.”

15. There was some confusion in the fourth quarter Sunday on a first-and-10 play for the Vikings. Favre threw an incompletion to wide receiver Bernard Berrian, who some believed should have been charged with a catch and fumble. Before the next play, the Patriots called a timeout that many believed was used in order for Belichick to get a better look at the replay and then decide on whether or not he should challenge the ruling on the field. However, television cameras did a poor job of showing the Patriots’ sideline at that same moment, because there were players and coaches who were confused about a possible substitution. That?s why the timeout was called, not for challenge purposes.

16. Wide receiver Julian Edelman, a lifelong San Francisco Giants fan, said prior to Game 1 of the World Series the Giants would win in six games. See, their playoff dominance even surprised Edelman.

17. Dan Connolly has done a really solid job filling in for Mankins at left guard, but Mankins’ addition might actually take some stress off center Dan Koppen, who has been singled up against some tough interior pass rushers. This is just part of the Mankins trickle-down effect.

18. Meriweather has been the subject of plenty of criticism this season, and the Patriots as a whole have been largely overlooked, especially last week with the Favre and Moss storylines. Meriweather said the Patriots paid no mind. “The world is going to be focused on something every week,” Meriweather said. “You just have to stay focused, and stay in your element and play your game. You can’t let people dictate what you focus on.”

19. One of the most common catchphrases around the NFL is “stay healthy.” Whenever players meet up with friends who play for other teams, it sounds like it’s almost automatic that they close each conversation with those two words.

20. It’s another reunion week for the Patriots, who will see Mangini, tight end Ben Watson, running back Thomas Clayton, quarterback Brett Ratliff, defensive back Ray Ventrone and offensive lineman Billy Yates. Clayton has actually had two stints with the Patriots this season, and Ratliff was with New England for a few days, too. Former Patriots linebacker Bryan Cox is also the defensive line coach in Cleveland, so the pleasantries will only continue on.

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