Patriots receiver Deion Branch  joined Mut & Merloni on Monday, a day after an impressive 41-28 victory over the Texans set up an AFC championship matchup against the Ravens next Sunday.
Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo sent out a few tweets Sunday night critical of the Patriots’ hurry-up offense (he apologized Monday). Branch said it’s nothing new for the Pats .
“It’s always a problem, the Patriots are doing something, it’s always an issue, if you notice,” Branch said. “The Patriots are always coming up with something very controversial in everything that we do. Success brings that.”
Added Branch: “Once the ball is in play, anything goes. ‘¦ Once the referee spots the ball down and he moves, anything goes from there.”
Branch said he doesn’t expect that Bill Belichick  will use Ayanbadejo’s comments for inspiration, as the Patriots won’t need it.
“I doubt if he’ll use it, because this isn’t the first time we’ve heard something like this,” Branch said. “I doubt if he’ll use it. But then again, who knows? He may bring it up. I don’t think we need any motivational speeches for this type of game, for this team. This is a team that we’re very familiar with, who deserves to be here. We deserve to be in this game as well. There’s no more speeches that need to be made for this game.”
Comparing this year’s Patriots squad to last year’s, Branch said the young players are more mature and dedicated to avenging last year’s loss in the Super Bowl .
“They guys have been through a lot of things,” Branch said. “The younger guys last year have seen it all now. So now all this stuff isn’t so new to them anymore. We’ve been here before. ‘¦ The maturity level we have on the team, that may be the difference. And I think the hunger, losing the Super Bowl last year is a bitter taste in a guy’s mouth. Seeing the guys in the locker room after the game, that’s the stuff that sets in.
“And then you notice how the offseason program kicked off, we had like 99 percent attendance. That’s not normal in the NFL anymore, where pretty much everybody shows up. We pretty had everybody here in the offseason program, and this rolled on into training camp, and it leads us to where we are right now.”
“Grownkoski is a very important piece to our puzzle, to our offense, very important to our team,” Branch said. “I think overall, we wish we had him those five games that we didn’t have him. But I think we’ve learned how to play without him. For people who didn’t think we could do it, for us to go out and play the games the way we played, the way we moved the ball on offense, the way we put up points, the yardage we had per game without him, it shows a lot of character for our team. It shows a lot of what our coaches are doing as far as preparing us to play the games without Gronkowski.”