When it comes to New England’s defense, Alan Branch has certainly been one of the most important pieces of the Patriots puzzle on the defensive line this season.
Oddly enough, they nearly lost him late in the season after the NFL handed down a suspension for Branch testing positive for a banned substance. But in a pleasant turn of events, Branch appealed the suspension and got it overturned.
That was likely more important than people think, as Branch was a part of a defense that played well down the stretch as the Patriots finished 14-2 with the #1 seed in the AFC.
Belichick spoke about Branch at length on Tuesday, pointing out that players like him are rare and that he’s been a terrific all-around player for them this season.
“Alan [Branch] has done a great job for us, and along with his play which is certainly significant, one of the things that’s really been impressive about him has been his play time,” said Belichick on Tuesday. “So in addition to his overall production he’s played a lot more than he has in quite a while in terms of number of plays.”
“From a production standpoint he’s got, again, quite a few tackles, tackles for loss. It’s hard to measure the disruptive plays but he’s certainly got his share of those. He’s played very well for us in the running game. He’s given us a presence in the pass rush of a long, physical player in the middle. That’s all been really good, and he’s played more plays so all of that is good. How unique is it? I mean, yeah, guys that weigh 350 pounds and are athletic and long like he is; I mean they don’t grow on trees. They’re hard to find.”
Looking back at some of their championship teams, having good players has played a key role over the years. In the early years, whether it was Ted Washington or Richard Seymour, they always had talented guys up front but Belichick said Branch is a rare player for his size.
“Ted Washington had that kind of length and size,” said Belichick. “Ted was 6′ 5″, but Alan moves better than Ted does, or did at that point in his career. We’ve had some other longer guys like Richard [Seymour] or guys like that, but they weren’t 350 pounds.”
“There’s not too many of them. Gerard Warren was a big guy that ran well. Money [Gerard Warren] was a very athletic player who wasn’t quite as long as Branch but moving into that range.”
He’s a good player and will have his work cut out for him. Atlanta brings in a high-flying offense and is coming off of a blowout win over the Packers, which put them in this position. As a result, it should be a good test for Branch and the rest of New England’s defense in two weeks.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary