Patriots

Branch on strong year: 'Just so happen to be rolling 'em out in my direction'

Branch on strong year: 'Just so happen to be rolling 'em out in my direction'

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick went out of his way to compliment Alan Branch during a conference call on Tuesday. He was asked about young defensive tackles Malcom Brown and Vincent Valentine, and he brought up Branch's name.

"Branch has been by far our most consistent defensive tackle," Belichick said. "The other guys can shoot to get up to his level."

Nearing the end of his 10th season, Branch has been one of Belichick's most dependable defenders. He has started all 15 games, played in 60 percent of the snaps (a significant bump from the 40 percent he played last season), and recorded a career-high 29 run-stuffs, according to Pro Football Focus. He's also posted 1.5 sacks, two passes defensed, and a career-high 47 tackles.

The 6-foot-6, 325-pounder is one of the primary reasons the Patriots run defense is third in the league in rush yards allowed per game (89.5) and ninth in yards allowed per carry (3.9). 

"I'm just going out there trying to have a good time," said Branch, who can often be seen on the field dancing to whatever music happens to be playing within earshot. "Just trying to play ball and stay consistent . . . I guess it's working out for me."

Though Branch is usually flanked by either Brown or Valentine -- two talented 22-year-old interior defensive linemen -- the nearly 32-year-old Branch has been the best of the bunch in 2016.

Asked if he's done anything differently this season to perform at the level he has, he shook his head.

"I'm playing the same ball," he said. "[Other teams] just so happen to be rolling 'em out in my direction, I guess. I'm able to make more plays and do well. Compliments to the scheme and everything. It's allowing me to play pretty good." 

Against the Dolphins, Branch and the rest of the defense will face a difficult test in Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi, who ran for 206 yards against the Bills last weekend. Ajayi is dealing with a shoulder injury at the moment, but Branch knows the Patriots will have to be prepared for the hard-charging runner with 1,213 yards rushing this season.

"He's a real tough runner," Branch said. "He runs really explosive. He has every trick in the bag when it comes to moves: spin, stiff-arm, jump-cut. He's a great back in this league and I expect a lot of things from him coming in the future. We're definitely going to have our hands full and going to have to be on our Ps and Qs . . . to make sure we get this guy down."

Raiders' Marshawn Lynch suspended game for shoving official

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Raiders' Marshawn Lynch suspended game for shoving official

NEW YORK - Oakland running back Marshawn Lynch was suspended for one game without pay by the NFL on Friday for shoving a game official during the Raiders' victory over Kansas City on Thursday night.

Lynch was ejected from the game after he shoved line judge Julian Mapp.

The scuffle started when Oakland quarterback Derek Carr was hit late on a run by Kansas City's Marcus Peters midway through the second quarter. Raiders offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele and Donald Penn immediately confronted Peters, and Lynch sprinted onto the field from the bench to join the fray. Mapp tried to break up the fight, but Lynch pushed him and grabbed his jersey. Lynch also got a personal foul.

NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan wrote a letter to Lynch, saying:

"You made deliberate physical contact with one of our game officials as he was diffusing an active confrontation between players. You were disqualified for your inappropriate and unsportsmanlike actions. Your conduct included pushing the game official and grabbing his jersey. ... You were not directly involved in the active confrontation that the game official was attempting to diffuse, nor were you a participant in the play that initiated the confrontation. You were the only player from either team who ran from the sideline to midfield to insert himself into a situation in which he was not directly involved."

Lynch will be eligible to return to Oakland's active roster on Oct. 30, the day after the Raiders' game against the Buffalo Bills.

Lynch finished the game with two carries for 9 yards.

The Raiders rallied to win 31-30 on a touchdown pass by Carr on the final play, and Lynch was in the locker room after the game congratulating his teammates.

Lynch came out of retirement this season and was traded from Seattle to the Raiders. Lynch said he wanted to make a comeback so he could give something back to his hometown of Oakland before the Raiders move to Las Vegas in 2020.

Lynch has rushed for 266 yards and two touchdowns in seven games.

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