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Saints 'win' Jimmy Graham trade on Sunday, Max Unger gets game ball

NEW ORLEANS – Jimmy Graham had a quiet day. Max Unger got a game ball, and the New Orleans Saints got a much-needed 25-20 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

On this day at least, the Saints got the better of the blockbuster trade between the teams last summer.

Unger, who was a two-time Pro Bowler at center with the Seahawks before being traded to New Orleans last summer, doesn’t get nearly the same type of recognition as Graham since he plays the less glamorous position.

But he was a driving force behind a win Sunday that quarterback Drew Brees said could be a “defining” victory for the Saints – especially the way they played the game. The Saints outmuscled the physical Seahawks by running the ball 35 times and possessing the ball for more than 36 minutes.

“This was a big win obviously against a very good team,” Unger said. “I have a lot of respect for this team, and we were able to put a good game plan together and go out and execute it.”

Unger is a man of few words in interviews – but he said a lot more than Graham after Sunday’s game.

Graham refused interviews just as he had throughout the week leading up to Sunday’s rematch against his former team. He also never wound up talking to Brees, coach Sean Payton or most of his teammates. Saints safety Roman Harper did chase him down for a hug after the game, though.

Brees said he looked for Graham after the game but didn’t see him. He said he loves Graham, though, and was sure they would catch up via text later.

Graham has never openly expressed anger toward the Saints in interviews. But he did show some ill will toward the organization last year when he sent a tweet to former teammate Akiem Hicks after the Saints traded Hicks away, saying Hicks should “feel blessed u got out of there.”

Graham had just three catches for 34 yards on Sunday as the improving Saints defense held up surprisingly well against Seattle. It allowed only 13 points, since one of the Seahawks’ touchdowns came on a defensive score.

Graham has been off to an excellent start this season after returning from a ruptured patellar tendon that he suffered late last year.

But a strong argument could be made that the Saints have been winning the trade all along, since Graham got off to such a slow start last year before the injury.

Unger, meanwhile, has been a strong, stabilizing force at the center position. He has started every game for an offense that remains among the NFL’s elite. He was elected by teammates as a captain this year. And he signed a summer contract extension worth more than $7 million per year.

The Saints also moved up from the fourth round of the draft to the first round in the deal – but that part hasn’t panned out as well, since they used that first-round pick on linebacker Stephone Anthony, who has barely played this year.