Albany’s Deion Branch told The Herald that he will definitely play football next season and that he wants to end his career in New England.
By Josh Weinfuss
ALBANY HERALD CORRESPONDENT
INDIANAPOLIS — Deion Branch had a Super Bowl sized reputation heading into Sunday night.
He led the New England Patriots in receiving yards in Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004 and came back a year later to be named the MVP.
So when the Patriots found themselves down four points with 57 seconds left in Super Bowl XLVI, New England quarterback Tom Brady turned to a likely source.
Brady’s first pass in the Patriots’ final series was intended for Branch, but Giants safety Antrel Rolle tipped it just enough where Branch had to reach back to attempt a catch. Branch missed the first-and-10 pass as five seconds ticked off the clock.
Still in uniform in the bowels of Lucas Oil Stadium after losing Super Bowl XLVI to the New York Giants, 21-17, Branch didn’t blame the tip for him missing the catch.
“I still got to catch the ball,” Branch said. “All of the plays were big, every play is important. Had I made the catch that was behind me, that could have been a key third down but we didn’t connect on it.”
Brady looked to the veteran receiver again two plays later on fourth-and-16 from the Patriots 14 and was able to connect with Branch for 19 yards to keep New England’s title hopes alive.
After marching to the Patriots 49 with nine seconds left, Brady looked to Branch once again but the 32-year-old Albany native toed the sideline, but it wasn’t enough. He was ruled out-of-bounds and the Patriots were forced to sling a Hail Mary with five seconds left.
“I thought I was in,” Branch said. “I think that would have been a big play for us.”
The ball fell just short of New England tight end Rob Gronkowski’s fingers as the Giants won their second Super Bowl in four years, and handed Branch his first title loss.
“It’s tough man, especially when we didn’t play good ball but still had the chance to win the game,” Branch said. “We made more mistakes and, regardless of the plays we made, we didn’t capitalize on the opportunities that they gave us.”
Branch was used sparingly in the first half, catching the only pass intended for him for 15 yards in the first quarter.
But he had a front-row seat for history.
Brady broke Joe Montana’s Super Bowl record of 13 consecutive completions in the first half with 16 straight. Despite the loss, Branch said that’s just Tom being Tom.
“That’s pretty much what we do in practice,” Branch said. “It’s nothing different. That’s Tom.”
As Branch enters the offseason with his football future uncertain, he told The Herald he’ll play football in 2012, he just doesn’t know where. If he had a choice, though, it’ll be in New England.
“This is where I want to be, this is where I want to retire,” Branch said. “This is why I came back, for the opportunity to play in this game and I’m pretty sure I will be here in this position next year.”
While he waits for his contract situation to get figured out, Branch will attempt to get over his first Super Bowl loss.
“It’s very painful, you know, not just for myself and my teammates but my family, and my kids,” Branch said. “The last thing I want is for all my kids to go to school and there are kids looking at them. There are more than just us we play this game for.”