Patriots

Branch carries on with productive season after suspension is overturned

Branch carries on with productive season after suspension is overturned

FOXBORO – The first snap of the game for the Los Angeles Rams offense was an inside handoff to running back Todd Gurley. He was summarily stuffed by Patriots defensive lineman Alan Branch for a 1-yard loss.

It was happenstance, of course, that the Rams chose to run right at Branch. But it was no coincidence that the Branch was there to envelop Gurley like an upright sofa. The 6-foot-6, 350-pound, 31-year-old has been doing that all season. And on Saturday, word broke that he will be able to continue doing so, uninterrupted by NFL discipline.

PATRIOTS 26, RAMS 10

Branch, who was set to be suspended by the NFL for testing positive for marijuana, had his suspension rescinded by the league. The league did so without hearing the appeal Branch filed. Apparently, they decided they just got it wrong. The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe reports that the traces of marijuana in Branch’s system were from a previously failed test and did not constitute a separate incident.

It’s been a strange season for Branch, a quirky, goofy, good-natured guy who dances during practices, stretching, on the sidelines and in between plays more than any other Patriot. That’s if any other Patriot actually dances. Branch was suspended by the team for a week during training camp. Reason unknown.

Regardless, his play’s been very good.

“This has definitely been the most productive year I’ve had so far,” he said. “Is it my best? When it comes to numbers it probably would be but there’s a lot of plays and a lot of games I could have done better. I’m kinda my own worst critic.”

Why has he been so productive?

“It’s a good defense for me,” he explained. “The playcalls and way we play goes to my strength to allow me to make plays and I’m making them.”

Branch has 40 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble this season. He had just that lone tackle on the stat sheet on Sunday, but he was a factor even if the stats don’t say so. During one first-half rush, Branch worked upfield with a bull rush, then spun back to his right to get in the face of Rams quarterback Jared Goff, forcing an incompletion.  

“That’s all reaction,” said Branch. “That was a hard day’s work on that play because I kept reacting and reacting and then I was right there. I just get out there and try to cause some ruckus.”

Meanwhile, the would-be suspension caused a ruckus for Branch prior to Saturday.

“I was upset because I knew I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said. “Having my name out there for my family and friends and my kids family and friends to see, you never want to have that on you. But I just wanted to go out there and take it one day at a time and play my best ball because I felt pretty confident that I was going to win the appeal or whatever was going to happen. I expected it because I didn’t see how it could go any other way when I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Asked if the league reached out to apologize for getting it wrong, Branch said, “I haven’t gotten anything yet. I haven’t read any emails yet, I haven’t opened my emails.”

Asked if he cares to hear an apology, Branch said, “I do care. I don’t know if it’s an apology or what (that he’s seeking) but the position I was put in was something else.”

Brady touched by Gronk's loyalty, sad for Jimmy G

Brady touched by Gronk's loyalty, sad for Jimmy G

Tom Brady sounded humbled both by his team's performance and his All-Pro tight end's pledge of loyalty to him in the aftermath of the Patriots' 26-10 loss to the Lions in Detroit on Sunday night.

Of Rob Gronkowski's acknowledgment that he was nearly traded to the Lions in the offseason and that "Brady's my quarterback. I'm not going anywhere without Brady," the Patriots quarterback, in his weekly WEEI interview on the "Kirk and Callahan" show, said the feeling is mutual about Gronk.

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“Well, I think that speaks to our relationship and I feel as strongly about him as he does about me," he said. "I love the guy. He has had a big impact on my career personally, professionally. Like I said, I am very lucky to play with him and we’re going to keep fighting. We are going to keep going after it week in and week out. We’re going to figure out a way to get this thing turned around.”

Brady would comment specifically on the rumored trade, but called it "nothing short of a miracle" that Gronk is playing after fighting through injuries throughout his career. 

“I don’t want to get into any hypotheticals and things like that. I have played with him for a long time," he said. "I think so highly of him as a player, as a person, as a friend, as a teammate and I am lucky to play with such a great player and someone who I just love being out there with. [He is] such a great competitor with what he’s fought through over the course of his career. Nothing short of a miracle in a lot of ways. … I love playing with Gronk. 

Brady also expressed sympathy for his former backup QB, Jimmy Garoppolo, who is likely out for the season with a torn ACL suffered in the San Francisco 49ers loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

https://www.nbcsports.com/boston/patriots/49ers-fear-jimmy-garoppolo-tore-left-acl?int

“I feel terrible for him,” Brady said. “It’s a tough injury. I feel bad for Jimmy, and it's football. Things happen like that. I've been through an ACL. It just sucks. You hate to see people go down, and (Jimmy) is someone I really like and have been friends with since the day he got here. It just sucks to have to go through that.”

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For Patriots, 'gotta play better, gotta coach better' never rang more true

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USA Today Sports Photo

For Patriots, 'gotta play better, gotta coach better' never rang more true

The Patriots fell to 1-2 on the season with a stunning 26-10 loss in Detroit against former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Click here for the boxscore, and here to watch what the coaches, players and analysts were saying after the game.

GAME WITHIN THE GAME
The biggest X-factor going into this game was how well-prepared the Lions would be by Matt Patricia, given his knowledge of what the Patriots would like to do on both sides of the ball.

Based the Lions’ success, it’s safe to say he sniffed some things out.

Defensively, Detroit didn’t appear to blitz much. The Lions just played solid coverage and rushed four most of the time. That was plenty to keep the Patriots receivers from running free and allowing Tom Brady to stand back and pick them apart. The sacks they had were coverage sacks. The pick they had was an instance where Brady appeared to just wing it into coverage hoping to pick up a chunk. It wasn’t close.

Meanwhile, the Lions took full advantage offensively of the Patriots' inept and unimaginative pass rush. Aside from Deatrich Wise showing up with a terrific singular effort on his sack, there was precious little heat on Matt Stafford and he was content to find the holes on the sidelines and throw short over the middle where the Patriots labor to cover.

Most discouraging for New England was the way Patricia and his offensive coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter, exposed Malcom Brown and Lawrence Guy at the point of attack, rooting them out of there and then getting LeGarrette Blount and Kerryon Johnson to the second level with speed.

The Patriots were outcoached, certainly. But they also seemed to just take it on defense. They got pushed around, play after play, and just kept lining up and allowing it to happen again. 

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