Given his first chance to start in over a year, Seattle Seahawks receiver Deion Branch didn’t exactly set the world on fire Sunday against Tampa Bay.
Branch replaced Nate Burleson – who is out with a high-ankle sprain – in the starting lineup, and was targeted by Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck a team-high 10 times. He corralled only four of those passes for 28 yards.
Nearly just as many were caught by the other team, as three Hasselbeck offerings intended for Branch were intercepted by Tampa Bay defenders.
Seattle head coach Jim Mora said he wanted to wait and see the film before commenting on Branch’s performance.
“I am not trying to shun the question,” he said. “It’s just hard to tell. You see things during a game, and your eyes are so many places, and you go back and look at the film and really analyze it. It will be easier for me to give you an accurate answer tomorrow.”
Fellow receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh had this to say:
“Today was Deion’s opportunity, and for whatever reason, they just made plays,” he said. “They’ve got athletes over there too, you know. You can’t make them all.”
Branch, who has 36 receptions this season, did not speak to reporters after the game.
K. Jennings, long snapper?
One position that is often taken for granted and certainly lacks in fanfare is the position of long snapper. The average fan probably doesn’t know that Kevin Houser is the Seahawks’ long snapper. The 10th-year veteran out of Ohio State wasn’t having a particularly stellar game on Sunday for Seattle. His low snap led to a botched field goal attempt in the first quarter, and he also picked up a false start penalty. But it got much worse for Houser and the Seahawks when he injured his right shoulder covering a punt early in the second quarter.
How bad was the injury?
Well, the Seahawks had fullback Owen Schmitt and cornerback Kelly Jennings practicing long snaps on the sideline.
Houser recovered enough to go in and snap for two more punts and an extra point. However, in the third quarter he injured the shoulder again and couldn’t play anymore.
So late in the third quarter, the Seahawks were forced to punt, and Jennings ran out as the long snapper at a generously listed 5-11, 180 pounds, knowing full well the implications.
“It’s harder than you think,” he said. “It has to be perfect every time. If not, then it’s a turnover or worse.”
Jennings, who did some long snapping in high school, produced a competent, if not textbook, NFL snap to punter Jon Ryan.
“How’d you like Kelly Jennings long snapping? Mora said. “Goodness sakes, it is an exasperation, to believe that we could actually be at the point where our backup right corner is long snapping for us. I say to myself, ‘How did this happen?’”
Well, Jennings is technically the team’s backup long snapper. He practices long snapping on Wednesdays.
“While they are out there practicing special teams, I am on the side snapping to the pole and hitting the pole just in case,” Jennings said.
Still, Jennings might be the smallest player to long snap in a game this season.
“You try to develop guys, but quite frankly he’s our best option,” Mora said. “He got it back there. I was very reluctant to punt again because I didn’t want them to tee off on him. You know, he’s 172 pounds dripping wet. Not your prototypical long snapper in the National Football League.”
Houser went to the hospital after the game to have his shoulder examined. If the injury is bad, the team will most likely go out and find a long snapper to pick up for the final two games.
Jennings’ one long snap in the NFL will probably be his last.
“God forbid we would have had to try a field goal,” Mora said.
Linebacker Aaron Curry suffered a shoulder stinger early in the third quarter. Curry returned to the game but the injury affected him. Mora pointed to the Carnell Williams screen pass for a touchdown as an example.
“He couldn’t get any strength back,” Mora said. “That’s what happened on that screen when they scored, he just couldn’t get off the block. He had no way of using his right arm.”
Running back Julius Jones suffered a rib injury but continued to play, while wide receiver/special teams player Ben Obomanu suffered a hamstring pull.
Staff writer Ryan Divish contributed to this report.