Bill Belichick. Not a man known to hustle the media with hyperbole and bluster.
When the Patriots coach huddled with reporters Thursday, he gushed in describing Deion Branch as a wideout with "exceptional" ability to adjust his routes, adding him to a list of near-mythological Belichickian favorites.
"Branch is great at that ... as was Troy (Brown), as was Kevin (Faulk), as was Randy (as in Moss)," Belichick said, per WEEI-AM. "Those guys just knew where they could go, how long they had to get there and how to do it. And 99 percent of the time, if as a coach, you said, 'this is the situation, and this is what we want you to do,' that's what they would do."
Branch won't touch Moss' career numbers -- or Randy's epic 23-touchdown outburst with the Pats in 2007 -- but Deion's connection with quarterback Tom Brady is well-documented, dating back to their first stint together from 2002 to 2005. In those early days, they forged what has been described as a secret language (largely before Gisele was in the picture) that paid off handsomely in Super Bowl XXXIX, when Branch recorded 133 receiving yards and tied a Super Bowl record with 11 catches (Jerry Rice, Dan Ross and teammate Wes Welker are the other record holders). Branch's efforts were good enough for the game' MVP.
He's not the receiver he once was (four-plus years in the Seattle wilderness can have that effect on a man) but Branch's chemistry with Brady was intact upon his return to the Pats midway through the 2010 season.
After being pulled early against the Bills in Week 17 in what he told WEEI-AM was "a (non-disciplinary) coaches decision," Branch is ready to go for Saturday's divisional game against the Broncos. Brown and Moss are long gone, but New Englanders still have Brady-to-Branch -- and hope it's enough to send Tim Tebow back into hiding.