Falcons hope Graham just a nightmare

September, 1, 2014
9/01/14
2:35
PM ET
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The tone of Atlanta Falcons strong safety William Moore's voice lowered a notch as he recalled last year's second meeting with rival New Orleans, a game won 17-13 by the Saints.

During that contest, Moore found himself matched with Saints game-changing tight end Jimmy Graham near the sideline. Graham ran his route outside then quickly broke back inside to get down the field for a 44-yard touchdown reception from Drew Brees.

"When you become too physical on a play that they run all game, they wait for that right moment for you to be physical again and they give you the double move,'' Moore said Monday. "It's called game-planning.

[+] EnlargeJimmy Graham
John David Mercer/USA TODAY SportsSaints tight end Jimmy Graham had a pair of scores in two games last season against Atlanta.
"For me individually, I had nightmares about that play. I wish I could take it back. But, you know, as a player, if you want to become elite, you've got to be able to have a short-term memory. I learned from that play and I got better off that play.''

Collectively, the Falcons have to find a way to be better at defending arguably the best tight end in the game as the Saints come to town Sunday. Graham had five catches for 100 yards and a touchdown in last year's game at the Georgia Dome. In New Orleans' two wins against Atlanta last season, Graham had nine catches for 145 yards and two scores. He has 500 career receiving yards and seven touchdowns against the Falcons through four NFL seasons.

The 6-foot-7, 265-pound Graham, a former basketball player in college, presents matchup nightmares because of his size, speed and leaping ability.

"It comes down to executing your play and the stuff you've got going on,'' Moore said of containing Graham. "You can't too much worry about Jimmy Graham. He's explosive. He does things other tight ends don't do. But at the same time, you worry about what you've got to do. Your technique should allow you to put you over an edge over what he's got going, if you execute.''

It will be interesting to see what type of coverages defensive coordinator Mike Nolan utilizes against Graham, particularly with having to contend with talented receivers such as Marques Colston, Kenny Stills and rookie Brandin Cooks. No one on the Falcons roster is truly capable of matching up with Graham, one on one, although promising rookie linebacker Prince Shembo could be an intriguing option for that role in time.

Cornerback Desmond Trufant didn't shy away from going head to head with Graham.

"Just how they line up, I'm definitely going to encounter him,'' Trufant said. "I'm going to just be physical, just like any other matchup. I'm going to believe in what I'm doing and have confidence to go compete.

"I don't put nobody on a serious pedestal like that. Everybody breathes the same air. We all compete. He's a great player. We just have to bring it to him, pretty much.''

One aspect all the Falcons defenders have to be conscious of when it comes to defending Graham is the league's emphasis on defensive holding and illegal contact.

"You can't think about it too much because then it will slow you down and you'll end up giving up a big play,'' Trufant said. "Obviously, you're aware of it. But we'll see. ... We play the game. We can't focus on how they're calling it too much.''

Vaughn McClure

ESPN Atlanta Falcons reporter

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