SEATTLE — New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham found himself in a scuffle with a few members of the Seahawks in pregame warmups before Saturday’s NFC Divisional playoff game against Seattle.
That was the most noise Graham made until the final 30 seconds of the game.
The Seahawks limited the Pro Bowler to just one catch for eight yards — which came with 24 seconds to play in the game — taking away one of Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ favorite weapons.
“There wasn’t a special plan. It’s just what we do,” said Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. “… We just dominated. I think what separates the way we practice, the way we pay attention to detail, the way we communicate, that separates us from everybody else.”
It was the second tough trip to Seattle for Graham this season, who had a bit more productive meeting when the two teams played on Dec. 2. Graham had three catches for 42 yards and a touchdown in the Seahawks’ 34-7 win. In that first matchup, Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright was a key part of shutting down Graham. But with Wright out with a broken foot, the task was spread to the rest of the defense.
“We’re not scared of him,” said cornerback Richard Sherman, who spent time covering Graham. “We have to deal with him but he has to deal with us.”
Said Graham: “I’m not sure if it was something that they did. Drew is going to throw it to the open guy, and if you’ve got people on you, he’s not going to throw you the ball.”
The Seahawks defense said they didn’t do anything special to take Graham out of the game. With Brees — who averages 250 yards passing a game — behind center, Seattle was trying to take out all of his receivers, including Graham, wide receivers Marques Colston, Robert Meachem and Lance Moore, and running back Darren Sproles.
“We weren’t focused on him,” Sherman said. “We know that Drew Brees doesn’t care who he goes to in crucial situations. … He really doesn’t care who he throws to. So we focused on everybody. We focused on the group. It was a total group effort by the entire defense and that’s how we did it.”
Before the game, Graham was seen getting into a shouting match with a couple members of the Seahawks’ defense. A Saints staffer restrained Graham as he yelled at the Seattle players.
Graham wasn’t eager to discuss the event after the game.
“(Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin) tried to disrespect me, and I’m not going to let anyone disrespect me. I don’t want to talk about it.”
The Seahawks defense jumped and appeared jovial as Graham was yelling at them.
“It’s just some chatter,” said Thomas. “But you love that. You love all these moments. I’m never going to forget when guys trying to run through our drills. But they don’t understand what’s coming.”
Thomas broke up several passes intended for Graham, who was targeted six times by Brees. Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor also covered on the 6-foot, 7-inch Graham, who at 265 pounds poses a matchup problem for many defenses.
But not the physical Seattle defense.
“We just wanted to stop him,” said linebacker Bobby Wagner. “He was talking a lot of trash before the game, too. So that kind of added an extra incentive.”