Lions Rookie Brian Branch Speaks Out on Controversial Hit: ‘I’ll Take the Flag’

Brian Branch

Getty Brian Branch looks on before a Detroit Lions game.

When Detroit Lions defensive back Brian Branch had rookie running back Bijan Robinson in his sights in Week 3, he knew he couldn’t let up.

Branch laid a big hit on the Atlanta Falcons running back late in Detroit’s 20-6 win on September 24, sending Robinson’s helmet flying and drawing a flag for unnecessary roughness. Speaking to reporters after the game, Branch said he wanted to take the chance to send a message, even though it ended up costing his team some field position.

Lions Rookie: ‘I’m Not Scared to Tackle’

Branch had a big game against the Falcons, making a team-high 11 tackles including three for a loss. He also broke up two passes, and laid the biggest hit of the game on Robinson with close to two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and the Lions holding a two-touchdown lead.

After the game, Branch said he saw the play unfolding and realized that Falcons quarterback Desmond Ridder had lost track of him in coverage.

“I had nobody coming until Bijan came out into my zone and — just licking my chops. He didn’t see me coming and the quarterback still threw it,” Branch said, via Nolan Bianchi of the Detroit News.

Though Branch was penalized on the play, he said afterward that he wouldn’t have done anything differently.

“F*** it,” Branch said, adding that he wanted to “show him that I’m not scared to tackle him, and I’ll take the flag.”

The hit itself drew some controversy, with Jeff Risdon of USA Today’s Lions Wire noting that “further review showed it might have been a clean blow.”

Branch will learn the league’s interpretation in a little less than a week, as the league now publicly announces all fines for hits on Saturdays.

Lions Defense Rebounds After Rough Performance

Detroit’s defense had drawn some scrutiny through the first two weeks of the season, especially after last week’s 37-31 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn had faced some intense scrutiny, with Risdon writing before the game that it was “now or never time” for Glenn.

“Glenn hasn’t been aggressive or creative in attacking the quarterback,” Risdon wrote. “There have been a few blitzes, mostly from Brian Branch out of the slot, that have had some success even without finishing the sack. Most of the time, it’s Glenn asking his players to win their battles one-on-one, or two-on-one if it’s Hutchinson.”

The Lions suffered through both poor play and injuries, with pass rusher James Houston and defensive lineman Josh Paschal both landing on injured reserve over the course of hte last week.

But after the Lions held the Falcons in check during Sunday’s win, head coach Dan Campbell gave credit to Glenn for drawing up a strong game plan.

“I thought (Glenn) did a great job with the game plan,” Campbell said. “We wanted to find a way to generate a little more pressure. And we did that with a couple of things we did, but also, guys really showed up. They won their one-on-ones today.”

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