KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) – Maybe Deion Branch still has an acclimation headache from learning an unfamiliar offense in a new city.

Or maybe the former Super Bowl MVP is just another victim of the Seattle Seahawks’ maddeningly inconsistent offense, which has failed to show the potency it displayed a year ago.

Whatever the reason, the wide receiver, for whom Seattle traded a first-round draft pick to New England, isn’t meeting his own expectations and has been relatively unused in the Seahawks’ offense.

“I really haven’t been putting up the numbers like I know I can. But we’re doing a lot of different things on offense,” Branch said as the Seahawks prepared for Sunday’s matchup with visiting San Diego.

Branch isn’t unhappy or disappointed with his situation in Seattle, he’s just another member of an offense that is riddled with injuries and failing to meet its goals a season after carrying the Seahawks to the Super Bowl.

He was traded from New England the day after the Seahawks’ season-opening, 9-6 win over Detroit. The trade ended his 45-day holdout with the Patriots, and Branch signed a six-year, $39 million contract.

But trying to learn the Seahawks’ offense and develop a relationship with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has been difficult, partly because of injuries to Hasselbeck and Seattle’s stable of receivers.

Branch has 45 catches for 626 yards and four touchdowns – well off his career season in 2005 when he caught 78 passes for 998 yards and five TDs with New England.

In his last four games, Branch has a total of just 14 catches. Getting only a few passes tossed his way is a season-long trend except for two games – a six-catch, two touchdown performance on Oct. 15 at St. Louis, and a season-best seven catches for 113 yards and a TD on Nov. 19 at San Francisco.

“We have not been throwing the ball quite as much as we have in the past,” coach Mike Holmgren said. “The numbers just aren’t there for a lot of catches for anybody if we’re spreading the ball around.”

And Seattle’s quarterbacks are distributing the throws. Darrell Jackson has 63 catches and was leading the league in TD receptions with 10 before being sidelined with turf toe. D.J. Hackett is quickly becoming a viable third option with 38 catches – 12 in the last two weeks.

Branch’s development with Hasselbeck stalled when the quarterback was sidelined for four weeks with a right knee sprain. Just about the time Branch and Hasselbeck were developing a link, Hasselbeck went to the bench.

Last week seemed the perfect opportunity for Branch to become Hasselbeck’s go-to target with Jackson sidelined. But the 49ers rolled much of their coverage toward Branch, and Hackett was the main target.

“If (Hasselbeck) wouldn’t have gone down, by now we’d be pretty much at the top of a lot of things,” Branch said. “We still got a lot of work to do. We’re working as hard as we can each and every day in practice trying to get on a good roll going into these next two games and hopefully the playoffs.”

Branch still doesn’t fully understand the offense and says it’ll be next season before he knows every route of every receiver in each offensive package.

He believes that Seattle’s inconsistency is a matter of focus and can be solved in the final two weeks. Seattle’s scoring average is down seven points from a season ago.

“We’re not playing at the level that we’re capable of,” Hasselbeck said. “We’re just trying to figure out why that is. We’re trying to click on all cylinders – sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t.”

AP-ES-12-22-06 1654EST


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