Kansas City, Mo. - Deion Branch picked up right where he left off over eight weeks ago. For the New England Patriots, that's a good sign.
Branch returned to the Patriots off a seven-game absence from a knee injury, and his presence was immediately felt. The third-year wide receiver not only played, but also started Monday night's 27-19 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, leading New England with six receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown. Branch, who had seven receptions for 86 yards a touchdown in the season opener, was injured near the end of the first half against Arizona on Sept. 19 and hadn't played since.
"Nobody is 100 percent right now," Branch said. "I wasn't thinking about it. Just reacting. Around here, they won't let us get back on the field unless we're ready. The main thing is that I was ready to go out and play and that's what happened. They let you work you're way back in. If you feel good, you go back on the field. If not, you have to sit out until you feel good."
Branch displayed his signature big-play ability during the third quarter, taking a short pass from quarterback Tom Brady across the middle and turning it into a 26-yard score. Branch hauled in the pass around the 15-yard line, shook one defender on his own, and used a terrific block by a teammate to cut up field and squeeze between to defenders at the goal line for the touchdown.
Branch was also instrumental in the other two New England touchdown drives. His diving catch for a first down on the Patriots first drive of the game set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Corey Dillon. He had two receptions for 30 yards to help set up a 1-yard run by Dillon in the second quarter. In all, all six of his receptions went for Patriots first downs.
Count Brady as one who was happy to have Branch back in the lineup.
"I was talking to my dad the other day," Brady said following the game. "He said, 'Is Deion [Branch] playing?' I said, 'Yup.' He goes, 'How does he feel?' And I said, 'Well, to tell you the truth, it doesn't even look like he has missed one day of practice.' That's just the type of player he is. He's so instinctive. He has tremendous ability. A lot of guys couldn't do that. It's pretty impressive."
More Dillon Delight
Dillon nearly had another 100-yard rushing game for the Patriots, finishing with 98 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 26 carries against the Chiefs. Dillon, who now has 998 yards in his nine games this season, had rushed for 100 or more yards in the last five games in which he had played. He scored the Patriots first touchdown on the opening drive of the game, taking the ball up the middle and cutting outside as he went into the end zone untouched. He set up his next touchdown, a 1-yard plunge behind a nice block from Richard Seymour, with an impressive 8-yard run in which he bounced to the outside.
The only dark spot on Dillon's night was near the goal line early in the fourth quarter. On first-and-five from the Kansas City 5-yard line, Dillon coughed the ball up when he was hit by Chiefs' linebacker Fred Jones. The Chiefs recovered on the 3-yard line and drove 97 yards in 11 plays, capping the drive with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Trent Green to Eddie Kennison.
"I don't like doing that," Dillon said. "That's not me. It's not in my character. You know, things happen. I don't like being the one to put us in situations like that. I'm not perfect. Never was. Stuff like that happens."
Warren On Point
Defensive end Ty Warren made his presence felt against the Chiefs, finishing with seven solo tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in one of his best games of the season. Warren pressured Green on several occasions, including a tipped pass along the line of scrimmage. Warren, who had one sack all of last season as a rookie, now has 3.5 sacks this season.
"I'm always fired up, I really don't get many opportunities to rush the passer," Warren said. "You see me on a lot of running downs. Anytime I get an opportunity to try to make a play versus the pass I try and go all-out to do that."
When the Patriots took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a 5-yard touchdown run by Dillon, it marked the 18th consecutive game, including the playoffs that the Patriots have scored first. The Patriots tied the 1978 Miami Dolphins for the NFL record of scoring first in 15 straight regular season games. The 1942-43 Chicago Bears are second on the list at 14 consecutive games. The last time the Patriots did not get on the scoreboard first was in a 23-20 overtime win at Houston on Nov. 23, 2003.
A Graham Night
Tight end Daniel Graham re-emerged in the Patriots offense Monday night, catching three passes for a season-high 83 yards in his best receiving game of the season. Graham hauled in a 27-yard pass from Brady on the third play of the game, and later beat Chiefs linebacker Kawika Mitchell for a career-long 48-yard reception in the second quarter to set up a 37-yardAdam Vinatieri field goal. Graham had disappeared from the Patriots offense in recent weeks, catching just four passes over the last four games, including being held without a catch in back-to-back weeks against Pittsburgh and St. Louis.
A change of mind by the Kansas City coaching staff turned out to be a key play in Monday's win. Facing a fourth-and-one from the Patriots 23-yard line, Kansas City had the field goal unit take the field before allowing the game clock to reach the two-minute warning. Following the stoppage in play, Kansas City elected to go for the first down and converted with a 1-yard run by Derrick Blaylock. Five plays later, Green tried to force the ball to tight end Tony Gonzalez - double covered by Rodney Harrison and linebacker Roman Phifer. The pass was intercepted by Harrison, leaving Kansas City trailing 17-10 at the half.
Game Day Inactives
The Patriots announced eight deactivations prior to the game: wide receiver Kevin Kasper; cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole; running back Cedric Cobbs; linebacker Matt Chatham; and defensive linemen Marquise Hill and Ethan Kelley. Jim Miller was designated the third quarterback.
Monday Night's attendance was 78,431. ... The Patriots were winless in three previous visits to Arrowhead Stadium. Their last win in Kansas City was 31-24 win at Municipal Stadium in 1964. ... Brady completed 17-of-26 passes for 315 yards and one touchdown. It was Brady's first 300-yard passing game since the season opener. ... The Patriots were effective on third downs, converting 8-of-12 attempts in the game. ... The Patriots had seven plays of 20-plus yards. ... Harrison led the Patriots with eight total tackles. ... Linebacker Rosevelt Colvin recorded his third sack of the season. ... Wide receiver David Givens, who led the Patriots with 42 and 710 yards this season, finished with one reception for three yards. ... Linebacker Justin Kurpeikis made his Patriots debut. ... Vinatieri made both of his field goal attempts, from 24 and 28 yards. He has made 18 consecutive attempts. ... Earthwind Moreland and Randall Gay started at cornerback for the Patriots.