GLENDALE, Ariz. – Especially with a fingertip touchdown grab in the second quarter in Sunday’s game against Arizona, receiver Deion Branch displayed the kind of skills the Seahawks hoped for when they traded a first-round draft pick to get him from New England in 2006.
Now healthy after injuries to a knee and heel, Branch had six catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns in the Seahawks’ 34-21 loss at University of Phoenix Stadium.
On that first score, Branch was covered tightly by cornerback Roderick Hood, who had his back to quarterback Seneca Wallace. Wallace, under pressure, tossed it somewhat blindly to the back of the end zone.
At that point, Branch showed not only skills with his fingers, but also with his eyes.
“When you run that (fade) route, the DBs kinda look at our eyes,” Branch said. “When you look up, your eyes get bigger when the ball’s coming in. We try to keep our eyes kinda closed, squinting, so they don’t know when it’s coming.”
The shifty eyes worked. The ploy allowed the Hawks to tie the score at 14-14 going into the locker room at halftime.
Branch caught a 2-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter, one that required no such trickery.
“That was just a blown coverage,” Branch said. “They were doing a lot of cheating, biting down on the inside routes.”
Branch said it was natural that he would get more comfortable and in sync with the offense as he spent more time on the field after his injuries.
“For a while, I never really got back to that full strength,” he said. “Once the season is going, you have to play with what you have. Everybody is aching in this locker room; if I can run a route, I can play.”
The lack of big plays – and too many negative plays like penalties – he said, led to this defeat.
With all new starters across the injury-ravaged offensive line, some of those mistakes were to be expected.
“We were missing some pieces,” Branch said. “Hopefully this offseason is going to be a great one for us with draft picks and guys they bring in for free agency. We’ll go from there, trying to add the pieces that were missing.”