Branch, Holmes bring new dimension to rematch

191543.jpg

Branch, Holmes bring new dimension to rematch

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- The last time the Patriots and Jets played, both Deion Branch and Santonio Holmes were among the missing. Neither of the Super Bowl MVPs were on the field when New York beat New England, 28-14, in Week 2.

Branch, of course, wasn't even a Patriot; he was with the Seattle Seahawks at the time. Holmes was serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.

Eleven weeks later, Branch is back with the team that he won Super Bowls with in 2003 and 2004 (and earned himself a Super Bowl MVP trophy in 2004 in the process). And Holmes, who earned his hardware as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is playing again after serving his suspension.

Both add a new dynamic to their current rosters, different from what each defense saw in Week 2.

Patriots fans know what Branch brings to the table. His return to New England's offense has re-united him with Tom Brady and has, in a sense, rejuvenated his career. Since the bye-week trade that brought him back to the Pats, Branch has made 33 catches for 433 yards and three touchdowns in seven games.

Holmes, acquired in the offseason from Pittsburgh, has played seven games for the Jets this season. He has 32 receptions for 491 yards and four touchdowns.

The numbers between Branch and Holmes couldn't be more similar. Their skill sets are the same, too, says Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington.

"Explosiveness, making the Jets offense even that much more dynamic," said Arrington about what Holmes brings to New York's offense. "Because he's fast, he's quick, and he's good after the catch. He adds a lot of explosiveness to the offense."

Holmes adds a great deal to New York's passing game, if not for his skill set then for the fact that the Jets already had a top-notch wide receiver in Braylon Edwards the last time the two teams went at it.

Patriots players believe the two are different, similar to how Branch is different to Randy Moss, the down-field threat that Branch replaced earlier in the season, when Moss was traded to the Minnesota Vikings.

"You know Braylon, he's a taller guy," said Arrington. "He's more of a jump-ball kind of guy. He's definitely more of a target in the red area. Not that Santonio isn't, but like I said, they just use Edwards' height, and he'll jump and go get the ball.

"Santonio, he definitely stretches the field . . . Santonio, man, not only is he fast, he's quick, and like I said, he's good after the catch. He's also a Super Bowl MVP. He's not that for nothing."

Branch isn't a Super Bowl MVP for nothing, either.

"That whole situation with Randy Moss there kind ofsurprised me," said Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. "I would never think they would trade the type of caliberplayer Randy is, and what he brings to their offense. But they broughtDeion Branch in, and I think they did that because hes familiar with Tom Brady andtheir offense. I mean, the guy was a Super Bowl MVP, so hes comfortable in thesystem he knows.

"Their receiving corps is still good," added Revis. "They still got WesWelker. They got Deion to come in and fit right in. And they got Brandon Tate, aswell. And they got two good tight ends that can catch the ball and rungood routes."

Branch and Holmes will play Monday night at Gillette Stadium. Neither were available in Week 2. Their impact on the divisional race will be on display, in a similar fashion.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comdannypicard

Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

falcons_devonta_freeman_092616.jpg

Freeman, Coleman lift Falcons past Saints, 45-32

NEW ORLEANS - Devonta Freeman practically wore out the Superdome turf with one long gain after another, Tevin Coleman wouldn't be denied near the goal line and the New Orleans Saints hardly looked like the team that made an emotional homecoming nearly 10 years ago to the day.

Cheers turned to boos, and many fans filed out early.

Coleman rushed for three touchdowns, Matt Ryan passed for two TDs and Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a score to help the Atlanta Falcons beat the winless New Orleans Saints 45-32 on Monday night.

"It was real fun. Everybody was doing their job and everybody was playing for each other," Coleman said. "Everything clicked, and we got it done. It's a real big win for us to beat this team here."

The game coincided with New Orleans' celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the Saints' memorable return to the Superdome on Sept. 25, 2006, 13 months after Hurricane Katrina. But there would be no reprise of New Orleans' dominant and emotional 23-3 triumph over Atlanta a decade ago.

The Saints' depleted defense struggled to slow Freeman, who rushed for 152 yards and caught five passes for 55 yards. Coleman also was effective in the passing game out of the backfield, with three receptions for 47 yards to go with his 42 yards rushing.

"We have to stop the run better," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "They were over 200 yards in situations where you knew the run was coming, even at the end of the game."

Ryan finished with 240 yards passing for Atlanta (2-1), which did not turn the ball over and moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Drew Brees put up his usual big numbers - 376 yards and three TDs passing - and hit tight end Coby Fleener seven times for 109 yards and a TD. But Brees' tipped pass that resulted in Jones' TD return early in the fourth quarter gave the Falcons a 45-25 lead that proved too much for New Orleans to overcome.