Saints morning report: Graham tops in NFL

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
8:00
AM ET
CHICAGO -- Umm, defenses know about Jimmy Graham, right? It’s been hard to tell the last four weeks, as defenses have allowed the New Orleans Saints’ most dangerous weapon to keep wreaking havoc.

As of Monday morning, the Saints’ tight end leads the NFL in both receptions (37) and receiving yards (593), though Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones (33 for 481) could retake the lead in both categories with a good performance on “Monday Night Football.”

Graham
Graham had his fourth consecutive 100-yard receiving game during Sunday’s 26-18 victory over the Chicago Bears (10 catches for 135 yards). This is just the third time in NFL history that a tight end has done that. The other two were Tony Gonzalez in 2000 -- and Graham in 2011. ... You’d think there would be a scouting report out on him or something.

In Chicago’s defense, Graham was well-covered on most of the throws, but quarterback Drew Brees fired several short and mid-range passes into the big target throughout the day. Somehow, though, the Bears let Graham get too wide open on catches of 29 and 38 yards during the Saints’ first touchdown drive in the second quarter.

“It’s tough because it dictates the coverage. You take a tight end and you put him outside the formation, it makes it hard defensively to kind of disguise man or zone,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “I thought he came up with some big plays for us. ... He’s a big target. He’s a challenging matchup. And to credit him -- and Drew -- the timing, all that stuff has been good.”

Road warriors: The Saints improved their NFL-best record on the road to 23-11 since 2009. The New England Patriots were just one-half game behind, but they lost at Cincinnati on Sunday to fall to 22-13 on the road since 2009. ... Up next for the Saints? Another tough road test -- at New England.

Rare performance: According to Saints researcher Lenny Vangilder, Saints running back Pierre Thomas became the first player in the NFL with 19 rushing attempts, nine receptions and two receiving TDs in a game since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2003.

Worth a click:
  • NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal points out that the Saints might be the most complete team in the NFL, even without an efficient run game. They were leading the league in time of possession this year even before they possessed the ball for 36 minutes Sunday.
  • The No. 1 thing ESPNChicago.com’s Jeff Dickerson learned about the Bears on Sunday -- they’re not on the same level as the Saints. (But, he quickly added, few teams are right now).
  • ESPN.com’s Bears reporter Michael C. Wright wrote that Sunday’s loss was a tough one for Chicago left tackle Jermon Bushrod to take against his former team.
  • Meanwhile, for a look at the Saints’ next opponent, check out ESPN.com’s Patriots reporter Mike Reiss on how New England’s offense got shut down for its first loss of the season.
  • A great line in Times-Picayune columnist Jeff Duncan’s take on Sunday’s game: “They played Bears Football better than the Bears.” Also a noteworthy quote in that column from Saints offensive tackle Zach Strief: “The feeling in the locker room is we feel like we can beat anybody right now.”
  • A great line from Saints fullback Jed Collins after he received a rare seven offensive touches in this article by The Advocate’s Ted Lewis: “I kept asking in the huddle, ‘Really?’” Collins’ three rushes and four catches were both career highs as he helped control the clock.

Mike Triplett

ESPN New Orleans Saints reporter

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