Wide receiver DEION BRANCH of the New England Patriots and defensive tackle ROCKY BERNARD of the Seattle Seahawks are the NFL Offensive and Defensive Rookies of the Month for September, the NFL announced today.
Branch, a second-round choice draft choice from Louisville, leads all rookies in receptions (28) and receiving yards (309) with two touchdowns. The rookie's contributions toward New England's successful offense (No. 2 in NFL) have helped the Patriots (3-1) seize a share of first-place in the AFC East after four weeks. His 28 catches rank him 11th among all NFL pass receivers. The 5-9 wideout is on pace to break the NFL's single-season rookie reception record of 90, set by former Patriot and current Green Bay Packers receiver TERRY GLENN in 1996.
Branch also leads all NFL rookies in total scrimmage yards (313) and leads his first-year peers in kickoff return average with the AFC's third-best mark of 26.9 yards.
Starting for the injured TROY BROWN this past Sunday in San Diego, Branch responded with 13 receptions for 128 yards. His 13 catches tied him for the second-most by an NFL rookie in one game with SID BLANKS (Houston, 1964) and LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON (San Diego, 2001). The rookie record is held by former Philadelphia Eagles end DON LOONEY, who caught 14 passes against the Redskins in 1940.
''We knew coming in that Troy was questionable, and when they made that decision, I knew that I had to step my game up," said Branch.
Bernard, a fifth-round draft choice from Texas A&M, is tied for the NFL lead and ranks first in the NFC among rookies with four sacks. He helped the Seahawks to a 48-23 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night with two sacks of Vikings quarterback DAUNTE CULPEPPER and has added 18 tackles this season.
Bernard has had sacks in three consecutive games and is on pace to break the Seahawks rookie sack record, held by defensive end STEVE NIEHAUS who had 9.5 sacks in 1976. Bernard's total is already the most for a Seattle rookie since SAM ADAMS finished the 1994 season with four.
"We liked Rocky coming out of college because we though he was naturally strong, but he has even more than strength," said Seattle defensive coordinator STEVE SIDWELL. "He seems to have a good feel for the game, against both the run and the pass."
Other nominees for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month were:
Â· Dallas wide receiver ANTONIO BRYANT, who leads all NFC rookies with 216 yards receiving on 14 receptions for a 15.4 yards per catch average.
Â· New York Giants kicker MATT BRYANT, who has connected on a perfect nine of nine field goals, including a game-winning 47-yard field goal against Seattle in Week 3. Bryant leads all rookies with 31 points.
Â· Dallas kicker BILLY CUNDIFF, who has hit five of six field goal attempts, including a game-winning 48-yard field goal as time expired against St. Louis.
Â· Cleveland wide receiver ANDRE' DAVIS, who is tied among all NFL receivers with four
touchdowns. Ranks sixth among NFL rookies in receptions (14) and became only the sixth rookie since 1970 to have a touchdown reception in his first three NFL games.
Â· Atlanta running back T.J. DUCKETT, who in three games has rushed for 138 yards, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
Â· Miami tight end RANDY MC MICHAEL, who has 13 receptions for 204 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Among AFC tight ends, tied for second in receptions and stands second alone in receiving yards.
Â· Denver running back CLINTON PORTIS, who is the NFL's top rookie rusher with 204 yards on 35 carries. His 5.8-yard-per-carry average is NFL's second-best for rushers with more than 30 attempts.
Â· Pittsburgh wide receiver ANTWAAN RANDLE EL, who has 13 catches for 161 yards (12.4 avg.) along with eight punt returns for 40 yards and six kickoff returns for 158 yards (26.3 avg., long of 33)
Â· Buffalo wide receiver JOSH REED, who has 15 catches for 176 yards an two touchdowns. Reed recorded receiving 110 yards in Week 2 at Minnesota, which was the most by a Bills rookie since CHRIS BURKETT had 127 on Dec. 8, 1985 against the Jets.
Â· New York Giants tight end JEREMY SHOCKEY, who leads NFC tight ends with 198 yards receiving and is tied for tops with 15 receptions, including a 28-yard touchdown catch.
Â· New Orleans wide receiver DONTÃ‰ STALLWORTH, who is tied for the NFL lead with four receiving touchdowns. Stallworth is the first receiver in 20 years to catch a touchdown in each of his first four NFL games.
Other nominees for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month were:
Â· Oakland cornerback-punt returner PHILLIP BUCHANON, who leads the NFL with a 19.3-yard punt return average on six attempts (117 yards), including one return for 83 yards. Buchanon has one interception, two passes defenses and seven tackles.
Â· Tennessee defensive tackle CARLOS HALL, who is tied for the AFC lead in sacks (4.0). Hall also registerd 20 tackles, two passes defensed and one forced fumble.
Â· Oakland linebacker NAPOLEON HARRIS, who stands fourth on the team in tackles with 15. Harris has helped the Raiders become the NFL's best defense in rushing yards per game (52.7).
Â· San Diego linebacker BEN LEBER, who is tied for the AFC lead in sacks with 4.0. Leber has recorded 11 tackles and two passes defensed. The Chargers lead the NFL in fewest points allowed (38).
Â· Chicago linebacker BRYAN KNIGHT, who is tied for the NFL lead with three fumble recoveries.
Â· Carolina defensive end JULIUS PEPPERS, who has three sacks and 10 tackles. The Panthers are the NFL's top defensive team, surrendering a league-best 239.8 yards per game.
Â· Baltimore safety ED REED, who has one interception, a blocked punt and eight tackles on the season.