NFL NOTEBOOK: Colts sign former Patriots WR Branch
The Colts signed former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch six days before playing his ex-team in the divisional round.
The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Branch had 518 catches for 6,644 yards and 39 touchdowns over a career spent mostly with the New England Patriots. Branch also has 64 receptions for 948 yards and four TDs in 17 postseason games. He won two Super Bowls and was MVP during the Pats’ third title run.
To make room, Indy put starting cornerback Greg Toler and defensive end Fili Moala on injured reserve. The Colts promoted receiver Josh Lenz to the active roster and released defensive tackle Christian Tupou from the practice squad.
DOLPHINS: A punchless offense in the final two games kept Miami out of the postseason, and they’ll have a new play-caller in 2014.
Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was fired Monday, the first change by the team since the holiday collapse. Coach Joe Philbin defended Sherman the day after the season, but owner Stephen Ross was expected to demand some sort of shake-up following the dismal finish.
PANTHERS: Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith said he’ll play Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC divisional playoffs.
What he can’t predict is how his sprained left knee will feel during the game.
The 34-year-old Smith says the knee “felt good” after doing some cutting during a light practice Monday. He’s expected to test it out more thoroughly Wednesday.
PATRIOTS: New England’s defense suffered another big blow Monday when the Patriots’ placed linebacker Brandon Spikes on injured reserve because of a knee injury five days before their playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Spikes, the Patriots’ second-leading tackler, is their fourth key defender to be sidelined for the season.
SAINTS: The New Orleans Saints’ 26-24 win against the Philadelphia Eagles was the most-watched Saturday wild-card game on NBC with 34.4 million viewers. The Indianapolis Colts’ 45-44 win over the Kansas City Chiefs had 27.6 million viewers. On CBS, the San Diego-Cincinnati game was seen by 30.9 million, the highest viewership in 19 years for an early AFC wild-card game.