The Detroit Lions rookie draft class has been stepping up in massive ways to open the 2023 NFL season. In Week 3 alone, tight end Sam LaPorta and running back Jahmyr Gibbs set records, linebacker Jack Campbell recorded his first career sack, and Colby Sorsdal filled in at right tackle due to injuries. But it’s fair to argue that defensive back Brian Branch had the best day of the bunch.
Branch—who just saw his jersey sent to the Hall of Fame this week for his pick-six in Week 1—recorded a team-leading 11 tackles (all solo), three tackles for loss, and two pass breakups against the Atlanta Falcons.
It was a pretty amazing day overall for the second-round rookie, but his arguably best play, came late in the fourth quarter when the Falcons were attempting a comeback.
On the play, the Lions were in zone coverage, and Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder threw a pass to rookie running back Bijan Robinson in the flat. Branch read the play perfectly and delivered a huge hit, sending a message.
Brian Branch go boom. pic.twitter.com/r4Egb0vW44— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) September 24, 2023
“Zone coverage,” Branch detailed the play. “I had nobody coming until Bijan came into my zone and I was just licking my chops knowing that he didn’t see me coming and the quarterback still threw it.”
Branch was flagged for a personal foul on the play, which is a bit surprising because he tackled Robinson with his head up, but I guess anytime you deliver a blow like that, there is a chance the refs are going to throw the flag.
When Branch was asked to share his thoughts on being flagged on that play, his response was classic.
“Fuck it,” Branch responded. “Fuck it. I’d rather show him that I’m not scared to tackle him, and I’ll take the flag, to be honest.”
For a rookie who has shown a quiet demeanor during his time with the Lions, this was a fun bit of swagger that definitely lines up with his play on the field.
The legend of Brian Branch continues to grow.