DETROIT – The Patriots’ 1-2 punch at receiver of Deion Branch and Wes Welker might not have the sizzle of other top tandems around the NFL, but the results they produced Thursday were about as good as it gets.
Branch finished with three receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns, which included an impressive 79-yard zig-zagging catch-and-run on a post-snap adjustment. Meanwhile, Welker had a team-high eight catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns, the first of which came as he powered through Lions defenders at the goal-line.
Branch and Welker.
Welker and Branch.
Mention the names, no matter the order, and quarterback Tom Brady smiles.
“They’re tough, they’re smart, they’re Patriot kind of guys,” Brady said. “They do whatever you ask. They’re right in the mold of the Troy Browns, David Pattens and David Givens’s. Just spectacular players.”
The chemistry between Brady and Branch was evident on Branch’s 79-yard touchdown was evident as Branch adjusted his route when he noticed cornerback Alphonso Smith – in man to man coverage – sitting on an in-cut. After making the catch, Branch made a few cuts to keep Smith turning as he dashed into the end zone.
“The biggest thing I was really looking at the end zone,” Branch explained. “I wasn’t focusing on where he was. I was just hoping that no one was coming from behind. I think [safety] Louis Delmas was coming, so I cut back to the left one final time and was like ‘I’m done doing all the cutting.’”
Welker’s first touchdown came in the third quarter on a 5-yard reception in which he showed his lower body strength by driving through Lions defenders after catching the ball a few yards shy of the end zone. It didn’t look like a play that a receiver still affected by a torn ACL would make.
“My knee feels great, these past few weeks it’s been awesome, this is definitely the best it’s felt,” Welker said. “I’m not worried about it all.”