Brian Branch was widely considered a draft steal for the Detroit Lions in the second round of April's draft. He wasted no time making a strong impression, altering the plans for the remodeled secondary by pushing C.J. Gardner-Johnson to playing strictly safety by taking over the nickel corner role.
As the Lions started to prepare in earnest for Thursday night's season opener, Branch danced with the devil by saying he was looking forward to the challenge of facing Patrick Mahomes.
"I've been thinking about Mahomes since last week," "I think I'm gonna start really watching film on them this week for sure. Just seeing what their tendencies are, and they've got a great quarterback. But, we've also go against a great quarterback here. We feel like he's prepared us."""
The Lions' secondary has had some tough moments against the Chiefs, as might be expected with a group playing all together for the first time. But Branch made a play just when one was welcome.
Brian Branch makes great play on pick-six of Patrick Mahomes (video)
With the Lions trailing 14-7 in the third quarter, Branch dropped into his zone as Mahomes’ pass intended for Kadarius Toney hit off his hands and went right to Branch.
As Branch closed to all but surely tackle Toney short to the first down, he showed great reflexes to grab the ball out of the air. There was no one in front of him, and he took it all the way for a pick-six.
Branch exited the game a bit later after appearing to suffer a non-contact leg injury. But was reported to merely be cramping (and what it looked like it might have been, based on what the Lions' training staff did on the field). He pretty quickly rejoined the team on the sideline, and returned to the game with a little over six minutes left.