Saints' Graham is back in peak form

NEW ORLEANS – Last week, New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham caught 10 passes for a career-high 179 yards and a touchdown. So what did he do for an encore?

Nine catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s 31-7 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

“Yeah, he’s a tough matchup,” said Arizona coach Bruce Arians, who described Graham as a “big wide receiver.”

“We tried a little bit of everything on him, and he just beat us today,” Arians said.

Graham went back to his old basketball days with the first touchdown, posting up safety Yeremiah Bell to easily win a jump ball for a 16-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

“It was something that we had coming out of the huddle. It’s a look that [quarterback Drew Brees] wants and he alerts me in the huddle,” Graham said. “It’s just, ‘Run, jump and get it.’ That’s just what we do, and I was lucky enough to catch it.”

Graham also had a 7-yard score in the fourth quarter. And throughout the day, he caught several tough balls over the middle of the field, knowing he was going to take some big hits.

But as Graham said last week after bouncing back from a hellacious helmet-to-helmet hit by Tampa Bay safety Ahmad Black, “I know that I play in the noise down there in the seams and down the middle of the field.”

Graham now has 23 catches for 358 yards and four touchdowns this year – putting him on pace to take back the NFL record for receiving yards by a tight end in a season (1,327 yards, set by New England's Rob Gronkowski in 2011). Graham briefly held that record himself, when he finished the 2011 season with 1,310 yards. But Gronkwoski passed him minutes later.

More important, Graham is clearly back in peak form this season after battling a wrist injury and too many dropped passes in 2012.

So let the other defenses around the NFL be warned: Expect a lot more of those, “Run, jump and get it” play calls from Brees to Graham the rest of this season.