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Thursday, September 19, 2013
Saints morning report: Bar high for Graham

By Mike Triplett

Geez. What does Jimmy Graham have to do to get noticed? The New Orleans Saints' star tight end had a career-best performance in Sunday’s 16-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with 10 catches, 179 yards and a touchdown. But it wasn’t enough to earn him NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors (thanks to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' 480-yard, four-touchdown performance).

Worse yet, Graham’s performance barely captured the attention of his own quarterback.

Jimmy Graham
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham punctuates his 56-yard touchdown catch in Tampa.
Drew Brees said Wednesday that he’s so used to such efforts from Graham at this point that he didn’t even realize the numbers his go-to guy was racking up Sunday.

“Walking away from it, had you asked me, ‘Hey, what do you think Jimmy’s numbers were today?’ I wouldn’t have thought it was that much. But I guess looking back on it, you start adding it up and you’re like, ‘OK,’” Brees said. “So I guess my point is, not that you have this expectation level, but you are just used to seeing a lot of those plays being made. It’s not like taking him for granted. But I think we all just expect that if we are not putting up 400-plus yards as an offense, score 30-plus points, running the ball well, throwing the ball well, hitting some big plays, doing these things … when those things don’t happen is when you notice.

“When they’re happening, it’s just like, ‘This is what we do.’”

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Our Wednesday conference call with new Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was one of the more entertaining chats with the opposing coach that I can remember. He’s clearly got a dynamic personality and a sharp sense of humor.

Arians shared a great story about current Cardinals and former LSU super-athlete Patrick Peterson. He insisted that Peterson taught himself how to play golf in a simulator in his basement, then went out and shot a 75 to win some money off of Arians.

Arians also said Peterson passionately helped sell the Cardinals on drafting his friend and former college teammate Tyrann Mathieu. But Arians didn’t need much convincing.

“I don’t give a crap about height, weight and speed. He’s just a heck of a football player,” Arians said of Mathieu. “I don’t know any college player that dominated on defense like he did over the years.”

When asked about the Saints’ uncharacteristically low-scoring offense this year, Arians said, “I think’s that smoke and mirrors. That offense is always high-octane.”

And Arians said he warned his players about the atmosphere they’ll be stepping into inside New Orleans’ raucous Mercedes-Benz Superdome this Sunday.

“It’s very unique. It’s Halloween every night in the dome when you play there. The fans are just fantastic,” Arians said. “You have to match that energy because Sean (Payton) has done a great job over the years as a play-caller and leading the league or close to leading the league in scoring on the first drive. We have to match that energy and don’t be surprised by it.”

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For more on Peterson and Mathieu, check out this story on their close bond by The New Orleans Times-Picayune’s Terrance Harris or this piece on Peterson’s athletic prowess by the Advocate’s Sheldon Mickles.

And for more on the Cardinals in general this week, make sure you keep tabs on Arizona's NFL Nation team page. Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss and I teamed up for this week’s edition of Double Coverage to preview Sunday’s game. Look for that later this afternoon.

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Thought it was interesting to see that former Saints receivers coach and current Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson singled out Saints tailback Mark Ingram for not punching the ball into the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 1 last Sunday at Tampa Bay (per WWLTV.com). Clearly Ingram is starting to lose the benefit of the doubt from a number of onlookers -- a topic I discussed in great detail on Wednesday.