Jimmy Graham now is Seattle’s leader in touchdown receptions by a tight end for a season (eight) and for a career (16).
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Maybe it makes sense that Russell Wilson used a basketball analogy to describe what is suddenly going on to make Jimmy Graham as productive as he has ever been in his three years in Seattle.
“We’re giving a guy who can really shoot a chance to shoot and he’s making those shots,’’ Wilson said of Graham, who Sunday caught his eighth touchdown pass of the season — all coming in the past seven games — to help Seattle to a 24-13 victory over the 49ers.
Graham, recall, was a four-year letter winner in hoops at the University of Miami before turning to football full time.
What he also is now is Seattle’s leader in touchdown receptions by a tight end for a season (eight) and for a career (16).
He set both records on the same play, a 1-yard catch on a slant route from Wilson that put Seattle up 21-6.
The 6-foot-7, 265-pound Graham was matched up in man coverage on San Francisco rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon — who measures 6-3, 195. It made the play so easy that it again made one wonder why it has taken so long for the Seahawks to make the Wilson-Graham connection work.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll repeated what he has said several times — that Wilson and Graham are just improving the more they work together.
“We’re so much better at utilizing him as part of the offense,’’ Carroll said. “You know, take what they are giving us and he’s doing a great job. … but again the chemistry between him and Russ has reached a level that makes them really on top of their game.’’
Graham was far from perfect, dropping a pass in the first half that would have yielded a first down, and his overall stat line — three catches for 34 yards — hardly stood out.
But it’s the touchdowns that resonate as he broke the season record of John Carlson in 2009 and the career record of Jerramy Stevens. He now has at least one touchdown in six of the past seven games after scoring just eight touchdowns in his first two years with Seattle.
Vannett steps up
Tight end Luke Willson went out with a concussion in the first quarter and missed the rest of the game and that opened up the door for rookie Nick Vannett.
Vannett played substantially the rest of the way and had two catches for 29 yards, including his first career touchdown, a 17-yarder in the third quarter that put Seattle up 14-6.
“It’s obviously a special moment,’’ said Vannett, a third-round choice in 2016 out of Ohio State who had just 10 catches in his career before Sunday. “But you never want to see one of your brothers go down. At the same time, I’ve got to step up.’’
The Seahawks emerged largely unscathed except for backup linebacker Josh Forrest, who primarily contributes on special teams.
Forrest suffered what Carroll called a significant foot sprain.
“It’s going to be a problem for him,’’ Carroll said, which could mean the Seahawks will have to make a roster move this week.
Willson also left with a concussion. But Carroll said “there’s a real chance that he could make it’’ back for next Sunday against the Eagles. “We’ll see. We’ve got to take care of him first and foremost.’’
Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson limped off after having his ankle rolled up on, but said afterward he was fine.
Carroll, asked about Richardson, cracked, “He was just mad he didn’t get credit for a sack.’’
Eleven sit or kneel
Every Seahawk had stood for the anthem the past two weeks as Seattle played in what were official NFL Salute to Service games in Seattle and at Arizona.
But 11 Seattle players either knelt or sat for the anthem Sunday — those kneeling were offensive lineman Duane Brown and defensive tackle Branden Jackson. Among those sitting were Michael Bennett, who has sat for all but three games this season and who has typically been joined by many of the other defensive linemen as was the case again Sunday.
Bennett said players had wanted to stand to salute the military the previous two weeks but stood or knelt Sunday to continue making a statement about raising awareness of social injustice.
“The last couple of weeks we wanted to honor the military,’’ Bennett said.