Branch catches MVP honor

Patriot comes up big again, with 133 yards and one TD

11 receptions tie record

Super Bowl

Patriots 24 - Eagles 21

February 07, 2005|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Deion Branch's last catch, the one that tied him with two others for most receptions in a Super Bowl, was his masterpiece. It also, for all intents and purposes, propelled the New England Patriots to their third title in the past four years.

"We're just so happy right now." Branch said.

Branch went over cornerback Sheldon Brown to haul in a 19-yard pass from Tom Brady on a second- and-13 in the fourth quarter of the Patriots" 24-21 win. The ball looked destined to be intercepted as it sailed toward Branch, but Branch got his hands in better position than Brown and was able to rip it away and land in field-goal range (aided by a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty that moved the ball to the 16-yard line).

That Branch's 11-catch, 133-yard showing would outshine teammates Corey Dillon and Brady may seem a surprise at first, but history shows Branch, named the game's most valuable player, has a tendency to play big in this situation.

FOR THE RECORD - A headline in yesterday's Sports section incorrectly stated that the New England Patriots' Deion Branch scored a touchdown in the Super Bowl.

Lost in the game-winning field goal with four seconds left by the Patriots" Adam Vinatieri were Branch's 143 yards on 10 catches and a touchdown last year against the Carolina Panthers. While 52 of those yards against the Panthers came on one catch, Branch was far more methodical last night.

His longest reception went for 27 yards.

"It was a physical game." Branch said. "I was hurting during the game."

Branch's numbers in the regular season, 35 catches for 454 yards and four touchdowns, were modest because of a leg injury that forced him out of seven games, but he reached another level in the playoffs. Branch also had 116 yards and a touchdown in the AFC championship game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"First of all, I'd like to than God and all the coaches and players to have the confidence in me to come out and put on the show that we dis played tonight going against a great team." Branch said.

Both the Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles like to blitz, and that left Branch in one-on-one coverage often. "We did a great job of adjusting to a lot of things they gave us during the game." Branch said.

Branch was the one Brady turned to in a defining third-quarter drive that gave control of the game to New England.

Brady connected with Branch four times for 71 yards ( twice on third downs) on a nine-play, 69-yard touchdown drive that gave the Patriots a 14-7 lead. Branch, considered the best of the Patriots" quartet of receivers, ran a perfect corner route for a 21-yard gain and narowly stepped out of bounds 2 yards away from the end zone.

New England scored on a 2-yard touchdown reception by Mike Vrabel on the next play.

"Deion made some huge plays." Brady said.

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