Monday wasn’t Graham’s most statistically-dominant game since becoming a Seahawk, but as far as trust goes, it might have been his most significant.
The Seahawks finally realized what anyone with a pair of eyeballs already knew.
It didn’t matter if he was smothered with defenders or denied the use of one of his limbs.
In a 31-25 victory over the Bills, Seattle made it official: Jimmy Graham is always open.
And Monday night, he was the difference in his team’s victory.
“Jimmy is a human highlight reel,” Seahawks receiver Paul Richardson said. “I believe when the ball is even in his direction, he’s bound to make something special happen.”
Monday wasn’t Graham’s most statistically-dominant game since becoming a Seahawk, but as far as trust goes, it might have been his most significant. When utilizing his tight end, Russell Wilson finally morphed into Drew Brees and dispensed with caution entirely.
Before Monday, it never quite seemed as if Graham’s near peerless skill set was fully embraced. But with the whole country watching on ESPN, the Seahawks didn’t just use No. 88 — they activated him.
“We talked about it this week, if we get a favorable matchup, we’re going to take advantage of it,” said Graham, who finished with eight catches for 103 yards and two touchdowns. “Sometimes when a guy is on you, you gotta throw it up. I’m 6-7. Hopefully we can keep doing that going forward.”
Graham’s first “whoa” moment Monday came in the first quarter, when he made a one-handed 17-yard touchdown catch despite a pass-interference penalty on Bills safety Robert Blanton — who was clutching Graham’s left arm. The second — which was teammate Doug Baldwin’s personal favorite — came in the second quarter, when Graham hurdled over Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore for a first down. The third came when Graham made another one-handed TD catch, this time on an 18-yarder rifled between Blanton and Nickell Robey-Coleman.
The crowd went nuts after that touchdown, and Graham did, too. He stood up on the Seahawks bench and screamed vigorously into the stands.
After that catch, he was literally Wilson’s right-hand man. And it seemed that he was seven away from being in every play of SportsCenter’s Top 10.
“Sometimes you gotta use one (hand),” Graham said with a laugh. “I told coach next time I’ll use two, but I couldn’t. I didn’t have my left at the time.”
Remember, it was just eight days earlier that Graham was limited to three receptions for 34 yards in a five-point defeat against New Orleans. Perhaps more notably, the Seahawks opted on their last chance to throw a fade route to Jermaine Kearse on fourth-and-two from the 10, seemingly wasting Jimmy’s talents in the process.
The slight might have contributed to Graham giving the media the silent treatment, as the three-time Pro Bowler was denied the opportunity to take down his former team. Monday? He looked to be in much better spirits.
Ever since his arrival, there have been persistent questions about how Graham would fit into the Seahawks’ offense. In Wilson, he was dealing with a mobile quarterback who would require Graham to improvise upon broken plays. This was no easy adjustment, and as a result, the numbers suffered. There were even cries that Seattle goofed in trading away center Max Unger for Graham’s services.
And for a period last year, some of those cries were justified. After Graham went down with a knee injury against Pittsburgh, Seattle’s offense skyrocketed.
But upon recovering from his torn patellar tendon, Graham looks as explosive and as valuable as ever. And his teammates are thrilled to see it.
“It simply comes down to resiliency, toughness, self-awareness and the resolve to not be denied,” Baldwin said when asked about Graham’s performance Monday. “We can’t be more happy for him because he’s fought so hard to get back to this point.”
After Graham’s second touchdown, Wilson celebrated with him on two separate instances. One of his best friends off the field had become one of his top assets on it.
The Seahawks have built a reputation for showcasing their skills in front of a prime-time audience, and this time, Graham was the latest individual to give the fans a customized highlight reel.
Who knows just how Graham will be used in the next game or two for the Seahawks. Part of their offense’s potency relies on mixing up the pass-catchers. Before Graham’s explosion Monday, Seattle had gone to Baldwin on its first three pass plays, which set up the Seahawks’ first score.
But what’s become clear is that neglecting Graham in the future would be a colossal waste of a superstar. Players like him don’t come along very often.
When he’s on the field, Jimmy is always open. And when comes to whether the Seahawks were right to acquire him — the case is now closed.