FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Four years after leaving the Patriots, Deion Branch felt like – and played like – he’d never been gone.
New England reacquired Tom Brady’s old reliable receiver five days after trading Randy Moss and, with less than a week of practice, Branch sparked a comeback from a 10-point deficit to a 23-20 overtime win Sunday over the Baltimore Ravens.
He capped that with two key catches that set up Stephen Gostkowski’s 35-yard field goal with 1:56 remaining in overtime.
“Tom and I have been away for four years and I honestly don’t feel we missed a beat,” Branch said.
He had seven receptions after the Ravens (4-2) took a 20-10 lead three seconds into the fourth quarter and finished with nine, the most he’d had in a regular-season game since catching 13 against San Diego as a rookie in 2002 after the Patriots drafted him in the second round.
“We’ve known each other for a long time, so I think the chemistry’s there,” Brady said. “It will be there.”
The Patriots (4-1) won their eighth straight game after a bye. The Ravens’ three-game winning streak came to an end.
When Moss was traded to Minnesota on Oct. 6, fans worried that the Patriots would struggle without their only deep threat. But Branch gave them plenty of reasons to forget those concerns and the team’s embarrassing 33-14 playoff loss to the Ravens in the first round last season.
“You can’t compare him to Randy, (Moss) is such a dynamic player,” Ravens cornerback Chris Carr said, “but Branch has proven he can win.”
Branch was MVP of the 2005 Super Bowl when he caught 11 passes for 133 yards. But he was in his fourth year with Seattle when the Patriots were dominated in last season’s playoffs.