Branch sees plenty of playing time in Seahawks debut
SEATTLE -- Deion Branch came racing around the left tackle, seeing nothing but open field, a convoy of blockers and the chance to make a highlight-reel impact in his first game with the Seattle Seahawks.
He just didn't see Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora frantically trying to chase him down.
"I was a couple of seconds away," a grinning Branch said after Seattle's 42-30 win Sunday. "He did a great job, a great athlete. I think when he dove at me, I was looking up-field. I wasn't even thinking about him.
"I thought I was gone."
Branch wasn't exactly eased into his first game with the Seahawks, 13 days after he was traded by New England for a future first-round draft pick.
The speedy wide receiver was part of an offense that threw the ball 33 times, flashed multiple three- and four-receiver formations, and spread passes among eight different receivers, seven in the first half.
Branch finished with two catches for 23 yards and his 8-yard run. Umenyiora's hustle down the line eliminated Branch's hope of finding the blue end zone at Qwest Field. But Branch was in on 47 of Seattle's 74 plays.
Concerns about there being enough balls to satisfy Seattle's talented receiving corps were quieted Sunday, when the Seahawks offense showed explosiveness lacking in the season's first two weeks.
"I hope we continue to put that threat on guys," Branch said. "It's not the same for me now. I don't have to worry about going into games getting double-teamed any more. That's out of the picture."
Branch was Seattle's last offensive player out of the tunnel during pregame, and he got a pyrotechnic welcome, even though it was the Seahawks' defense that was being introduced with fireworks to the record crowd.
His first catch came on Seattle's third series, when he caught an 8-yard slant pass from quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. His other catch came on a 15-yarder across the middle early in the second quarter.
Branch was also called for offensive pass interference and was thrown to four times. But he was the only Seahawks receiver not to catch a touchdown. Darrell Jackson had two TDs, and Bobby Engram and Nate Burleson each had one -- Burleson's his first with Seattle.
Branch didn't seem to mind being left out.
"Our receivers as a group did a really fine job," coach Mike Holmgren said. Jackson "had a good game, Bobby made some plays and Nate made some catches. That's all good stuff."
The use of four-receiver sets was largely due to injures at tight end that have sidelined Jerramy Stevens until next month and kept Itula Mili on the sideline Sunday. Seattle has also struggled to establish a ground attack with MVP Shaun Alexander held under 100 yards for the third straight game. Alexander sat out the fourth quarter and finished with just 47 yards.
The receivers wouldn't mind staying with the wide-open spread formations.
"If you look at the four wide receivers that we put on the field today, we have a mismatch somewhere, sometimes everywhere," Hasselbeck said. "That's an exciting thing."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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