The Jacksonville Jaguars defense has been killed by critics, fairly, over the past month and a half or so because they’ve frankly been awful. Two of the players who have been a focus of that criticism have been defensive ends Chris Clemons and Andre Branch. Hell, I wrote a week ago that the team should probably cut both from the roster because they were dead weight. In the first part of Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts, it appeared as if it was going to be more of the same from the player Gus Bradley affectionately calls "Brancher".
But then he shoved it in everyone’s face making a play that literally changed the game and he ended the day having the best game of his career.
Branch beat the Colts right tackle off the edge, what, and swatted the ball out of Matt Hasslebeck’s hands. He scooped the ball and sprinted to endzone 49 yards for a touchdown, pulling the Jaguars to 13-9 right before halftime. The momentum in the game swung to the Jaguars favor and they never looked back, pouring it on the Colts in the second half with 42 points, to end the day with a 51-16 victory.
It wasn’t just that play by Branch, though. He played like a man possessed, and credit to him. He’s been killed for his play over the past three seasons because frankly, he hasn’t really done anything noteworthy other than dance when other people get sacks. Branch ended the day with four tackles, two sacks and the forced fumble/touchdown, but he did much more than that. He was disruptive in the Jaguars pressure packages, he hit the quarterback. He suddenly did everything people have wanted him to do forever.
If I were giving out a game ball or naming a player of the game, I’d give it to Andre Branch. That one play set things in motion for one of the biggest blowouts in franchise history against a division rival.
I’m not going to say this is a mea culpa, as I still don’t expect Branch on the roster next season, but credit where credit is due. I couldn’t help but belly laugh as he was sprinting to the end zone on Sunday.