Cliff Branch by the Numbers

Geez. I am having a lot of fun making these and looking at these numbers. For years I have been upset at the league for not putting Cliff Branch into the Hall of Fame. He did reach semi-finalist status for the Hall in 2004 and most recently in 2010. Although that is a debate that I want to avoid for this post. However, Branch's career numbers prove beyond a doubt that he deserves it. Lets take a look at this former 4th round pick of the 1972 draft.

Branch played in 183 regular season games and caught 501 passes for 8,685 yards and 76 touchdowns. It must be remembered that he played in an era where defensive backs got away with a lot in coverage (at least for most of his career prior to the Mel Blount rule) and Branch played in an era when teams ran offensive's differently. His career is no exception and this hurt his numbers but you will never find a better "money" player than Cliff Branch....

Branch in the Playoffs

  • When he retired in the mid-1980s Branch was the all-time playoff leader in both catches and yardage. In these "sudden-death" "money" games Branch was a true primetime player.
  • In 19 playoff games he registered 73 catches for 1289 yards and 5 touchdowns. He averaged nearly four receptions a game for nearly 70 yards. Not to compare but Lynn Swann played in 18 playoff games and registered only 48 catches for 907 yards, averaging 3 receptions a game for barely 57 yards. Swann even lost to Branch in touchdowns scored. Branch has 10 and Swann has 9. PUT CLIFF BRANCH IN THE HALL OF FAME.
  • In Super Bowl play Branch played in 3 Super Bowls, all wins and he caught 14 passes for 181 yards and 3 touchdowns.
  • In the AFC Championship game Branch averaged 3.7 receptions in 6 games played. Wow the Raiders were so great back then! He avaraged nearly 75 yards a game on 22 career AFC Championship game receptions.
  • Branch also appeared in 10 Divisional and Wild Card playoff games and logged 37 receptions for 641 yards and 1 touchdown.
  • Overall in the postseason Branch averaged nearly 18 yards (17.66) per reception.

Vs. AFC West

  • Branch's career spanned from 1972-1985 and so his career so he played the AFC West teams 77 times. Obviously his numbers are brilliant against these guys with 228 catches for 3,984 yards and 27 touchdowns.
  • Of all the AFC West teams, Seattle included, the team that Branch beat the most was San Diego. Branch lit up the Chargers with 72 receptions in 25 games for 1,392 yards and 11 touchdowns.
  • Likewise in games against San Diego that he appeared in can you guess what the Raiders record against the Chargers was? Branch finished his career against San Diego (keep in mind he missed a few games due to injuries over his career span) Branch finished 19-5-1. WOW!
  • As a side note the second ranked team in the West for Branch was Denver with just 57 catches in 22 games played. The Raiders were 13-8-1 in those games. Branch also added 8 touchdowns against Denver to his totals.

Vs. the Rest of the AFC

What teams did Branch victimize in his career? Well in order to do this one has to look at his numbers but one must also look at the number of games played against that team and Branch's averages per game played. Of the teams outside of the AFC West that Branch played the most in his career ranks as follows

  • Oilers 9 times
  • Steelers and Bengals tied for second with 6 times
  • Bills, Browns and Miami tied for third with 5 times.
  • Of those teams Branch's biggest number of receptions and yardage was logged against the Oilers with 30 for 444. But against the Steelers, Bengals and Oilers Branch scored 3 times against each of those teams.
  • Interesting thing to note here: Branch seemed to struggle against Miami, the Jets and the Colts when it came to regular season games played. Branch DID NOT score a touchdown against any of those teams in 9 games played. In fact Branch did not do very well against the Jets stats wise but he only played in 2 games against them. However, Branch did play Miami 5 times in the regular season and caught just 12 passes for 138 yards and zero touchdowns.
  • Branch was "Hot in Cleveland"
  • Outside of the AFC West Branch had his best touchdown career performances against the Browns and here is a big surprise the Falcons. Against these two teams Branch score a total of four times against both Atlanta and Cleveland.
  • Likewise, the impact that playing Cleveland had on Branch's numbers is interesting. If we take away Branch's receptions against the AFC West he logged 278 catches. Of these remaining catches his 22 receptions against Cleveland represent nearly 8% of his career non AFC West totals. He also added 284 yards.
  • In all Branch played the Browns 5 times, finished with a 4-1 record and logged 287 yards and four touchdowns.
  • Branch seems to have owned the former AFC Central because stats wise it ranks second in every category. 94 catches for 1,471 yards and 13 touchdowns in 26 games.

Vs. the NFC

  • In 41 regular season games Branch caught 129 passes for 2,456 yards and 22 touchdowns. Likewise the Raiders finished with a 34-7 record during Branch's career against the NFC. Against Green Bay the Raiders were 4-0 and versus the 49ers Branch finished 2-0.
  • Branch had career highs (against the NFC of course) versus Chicago in receptions with 15 in four games. Atlanta represent's his best yardage output with 293 yards in just two games and as mentioned before his four touchdowns against Atlanta is his career best in touchdowns against any NFC team.
  • When you add together his regular season numbers against the NFC and his Super Bowl numbers (44 games total) you get:
  • 143 catches (3 receptions per game)
  • 2,637 yards (59.9 yards per game)
  • 25 touchdowns
  • Cliff Branch caught a pass against every single NFL team that existed between 1960-1994. In fact his numbers against the Jets are his worst with just 5 receptions for 64 yards in 2 games.

Branch should have been nicknamed Primetime!

  • On Monday Night Football Branch lit up the football world in 20 games. (Raiders were 16-3-1 in these games)
  • Branch caught 56 catches on Monday Night for 928 yards and 9 touchdowns! I wish I had him in Fantasy football because he scored 9 out of 20 times for a 45% average. He also averaged 16.57 yards per catch!

Branch Vs the Steel City

  • Cliff Branch played Pittsburgh a lot during his career. First we will look at the regular season numbers and then his totals counting the many playoff games between these two storied franchises.
  • In the regular season Branch caught 14 passes for 302 yards and 3 touchdowns in 6 games. Raiders finished 4-2 in that span.
  • In the playoffs Branch was on the roster for 6 playoff games versus Pittsburgh. Raiders finished 3-3. He was on the roster for the infamous 1972 playoff game in which Franco Harris...well you get the picture but he did not log a reception in that game or was inactive that day.

In the remaining five playoff games aginst the Steelers Branch's numbers look like this:

  • 1973: 1 catch 8 yards zero touchdowns
  • 1974: 9 catches for 186 yards and 1 touchdown
  • 1975: 2 catches for 56 yards and zero touchdowns
  • 1976: 3 catches for 46 yards and zero touchdowns
  • 1983: 6 catches for 76 yards and zero touchdowns
  • Finals: 21 catches for 372 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Reg. Season and playoffs combined versus Pittsburgh (6 regular season games and 6 playoff games)
  • Regular 14 catches for 302 yards and 3 touchdowns for a 21.5 average.
  • Playoffs 21 catches for 372 yards and 1 touchdown for a 17.7 average. (Branch killed Pitt. in the postseason compared to the regular season)
  • Totals 35 catches for 674 yards and 4 touchdowns a 19.2 average.

Final Thoughts

1974 and 1976 had the greatest impact on Branch's career numbers. 21% of his career receptions occured in those two seasons alone and so did the only two 1,000+ yard recieving seasons that he would ever acquire. 25% of his recieving yardage totals occured during hose years as well.

Reciever Mike Siani was drafted by the Raiders in the 1st round of the 1972 playoffs. As mentioned earlier Branch was drafted in the fourth round of that same draft. Branch outdid Siani in everything. Like all NFL teams the players that Oakland drafts in the first round can be boom or busts.

Siani career--->158 catches for 2,618 yards and 17 touchdowns, 1 Super Bowl win (as Branch's teammate in '76)

Branch career-501 catches for 8,685 yards and 67 touchdowns. 3 Super Bowl wins

Siani playoffs-->6 games 18 catches for 247 yards and 3 touchdowns

Branch playoffs well you can read above for his numbers.

As a fourth round pick Branch brought a better value for his dollar than Siani.