SEATTLE — His picture may have been on the program, but Jimmy Graham reintroduced himself to Seattle fans on Monday.
The big bodied tight end, who catches plenty of grief for not blocking well enough with both hands, caught two passes with one hand to silence even the most staunch of critics. The 6-foot-7 Graham pulled in all eight passes Russell Wilson threw his way for 103 yards to help the Seahawks defeat the Buffalo Bills, 31-25, on Monday Night Football.
Just moments into the second quarter, Wilson launched a pass up to Graham in the back right corner of the end zone. With Bills’ safety Robert Blanton draped like a cape on his 265-pound frame, Graham calmly extended his right arm and reeled in the ball in stride.
It was the first of three jaw-dropping plays for Graham on the night.
Fast forward just about 14 minutes and Wilson again heaves a pass up for Graham. This time it is cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman pulling on Graham’s arm like a child trying to drag his father into a candy store. Different defender, same result. Graham would go to the ground and juggle the ball for just a moment before the officials’ hands signaled touchdown.
“We talked about this week, if we get a favorable matchup we’re going to throw it,” Graham said. “It’s the National Football League. These windows are so tight and so small that sometimes when a guy is on you, sometimes you just gotta throw it up. I’m 6-7 and I’m going to go up and make a play and I did that. Hopefully we can keep doing that moving forward.”
As amazing as Graham’s one-handed grabs were, sandwiched between the first two passing touchdowns for the Seahawks since Week 4 against the Jets, one quick jump is the real reason Seahawk fans should be chirping Graham’s name this week. With 2:19 left in the first half, Wilson hit Graham with a short pass to the left. Graham turned upfield where Buffalo’s Stephon Gilmore was breaking down, ready to wrap up the tight end’s legs. This is when the jaws of a CenturyLink Field record 69,084 people dropped — Graham ran hard and jumped over Gilmore, clearing the defender like a hurdle.
Graham’s jumping exposition was the final sign that he is back after sustaining a torn patellar tendon in his right knee last season. The last three weeks have been a gradual improvement for Graham as he begins to trust the knee and build chemistry with Wilson.
“We’re there early in the mornings and we always race each other to see who will get there first,” Wilson said of working with Graham battling injuries. “He’s a special player. His mindset is tough as nails. He’s been through it all, and he can hang with the best of them.”
In the long run, introducing Jimmy to the opposing defense early and often may just be what the doctor ordered for the Seahawks struggling rushing attack. Several times on Monday, Wilson used play action and rolled to an open Graham. Hitting Graham with shots to the end zone or just a couple of 8- to 10-yard passes will make the defense soften on runs even if it takes a couple more weeks before Thomas Rawls returns.
“He’s crazy special out there, so the catches that he made tonight for touchdowns were phenomenal and that’s why he’s here,” Wilson said. “He’s, in my opinion, the best tight end in the National Football League and he can do everything.”
It’s been a long road for Graham with the injury, but its also been a long road since another game most Seahawk fans remember from him.
Turn the clock back to January of 2014 and remember when Jimmy Graham wasn’t exactly liked in the Emerald City. The Seahawks held Graham to one catch for eight yards in a home playoff game with New Orleans, but it was a yelling match Graham got into with some of the Seattle defenders before the game that made news. When then-Seahawks’ Bruce Irvin told Graham to get out of the Seattle warm-up area before the game, Graham yelled back “I’m Jimmy.” Irvin responded “Who’s Jimmy?”
Nobody in CenturyLink Field was asking “Who’s Jimmy?” on Monday. For one of the first times since he was traded to the Seahawks in 2015, fans may be asking “Who’s Max Unger?” I’m not saying I think the Seahawks won the trade yet, but on a night when Seattle’s run game was non-existent, it was sure nice to have a sure-handed tight end.