KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) – It’s been a week of conflicting emotions for the Seattle Seahawks. Losing their third consecutive game. Winning the NFC West.

But there’s been no conflict in how Deion Branch has felt.

He had four dropped passes in what might have been a season-turning win over San Diego last Sunday, one that might have brightened the prospects for the Seahawks’ postseason.

Not what the former Super Bowl MVP had in mind upon arriving in Seattle three months ago.

“I feel I let everybody down. My teammates. Friends. Family,” Branch said of his disastrous day in San Diego’s 20-17 comeback win over the slumping Seahawks (8-7).

“I never want to have that feeling again.”

On Seattle’s final drive of the first half against San Diego, Matt Hasselbeck’s first-down pass went off his hands. On second down, Branch was open behind three Chargers at the San Diego 35. The pass deflected off his shoulder pads.

In the third quarter, Branch was alone at the San Diego 40 on third down. Another accurate pass clanged off his chest. A fourth throw smacked off his jersey numbers in the final quarter.

Branch said that feeling haunted him through Christmas. Through three nights when he tried to sleep – until he returned to practice with his teammates Wednesday for Sunday’s regular season finale at Tampa Bay (4-11).

The fans let him know it.

Boos rained as much as the steady downpour following each muff. Branch looked bewildered.

“I’m over it now. I still want to go out and help this team win and get to the Super Bowl,” he said this week. “That’s what they brought me here to do. I didn’t come out here to lose games like that.”

The Seahawks traded with New England for Branch on Sept. 11, ending his 45-day contract holdout with the Patriots. Seattle gave him a six-year, $39 million contract with $13 million in bonuses and other guarantees. About $23 million is due to Branch in the first three years of the deal.

That means the Seahawks have too much invested in Branch to lose faith or patience so soon in a prized catch who has not been making prize catches.

Hasselbeck hasn’t lost faith. He threw to Branch 12 times against the Chargers. Branch caught five.

“I don’t worry about that guy at all,” Hasselbeck said. “He has been an inspiration on our team the way he comes to work every day. He had a great practice today.”

Jerry Rice isn’t worried about Branch, either. Branch sought out advice recently from the now-retired NFL record holder for receptions, yards and touchdowns.

“Jerry told me, ‘I never made every catch, either,”‘ Branch said, smiling.

Branch has 50 catches in 13 games. That is below the expectations that came with his new Seahawks contract. But it’s just part of a season full of unfilled expectations following Seattle’s first Super Bowl appearance.

Branch is just above his pace of 53 catches per season during his first four NFL years with the Patriots. But he’s far from his career-best 78 catches from 2005, the surge that led to the holdout with New England and eventually to Branch becoming a Seahawk.

Branch only has four touchdown catches this season. But he’s never had more than five in any season.

And Hasselbeck missed four weeks with a sprained knee just as he and Branch were developing an on-field connection.

For coach Mike Holmgren, the problem hasn’t been Branch. It’s been the entire, underperforming passing offense.

“We’ve got to complete 60 percent of our passes,” Holmgren said.

Hasselbeck has connected on just 56 percent of his throws this season. The quarterback said that if he alone improves, the Seahawks will resemble the team they and others have thought they’d be for months.

Branch thinks Hasselbeck was back to his 2005 Pro Bowl form last week. But Hasselbeck was 17-for-37 with two interceptions instead of 21-for-37 because of Branch’s drops.

“That’s an area that hopefully in the playoffs we kind of get hot with, because it’s been pretty inconsistent this season, to be honest with you,” Holmgren said of his passing game.

“But that is an area that if we could kind of catch lightning in a bottle a little bit in the playoffs, that would really help us.”


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