Jimmy Graham shut out by Patriots

Foxborourgh, Mass. -- How to stop or even slow down New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham had become one of this season's greatest unknowns throughout the NFL as Graham had transformed into the ultimate mismatch for the opposition.

Leave it up to Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots to not only limit Graham, but completely shut him out in the Saints' 30-27 loss in Gillette Stadium.
Graham, the league's leader in receiving yards coming into the game, was held without a catch despite being targeted by Drew Brees six times. It's the first time since Oct. 31, 2010, his rookie year against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Graham failed to catch a pass in a game.

Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib drew the assignment on Graham and stuck to him like a mosquito, giving Graham barely room to breathe much less catch a football. Payton referred to Talib as an elite cornerback leading up to the game and the Saints had to figure he would defend Graham at some point Sunday.
Payton said it wasn't all Talib, though, pointing more to a philosophy New England implements as a whole to slow down the opponent's primary weapon.

"The one thing they do a good job with is they disrupt you at the line of scrimmage really better than anyone," Payton said. "They do a really good job of getting hands on receivers and tight ends. They're very well-coached and disciplined. They did a very good job of that."

Payton may have been correct in his assessment as the Patriots held Graham 0-fer even after Talib left early in the third quarter with a hip injury and never returned.

"It seemed to be pretty consistent," Brees said. "Obviously at times and depending on the situation and personnel group, they did some things to Jimmy and to other guys. Listen, that's football. You know they're going to have a plan for you in every situation, red zone. You've got to find ways to combat it."

Patriots safety Devin McCourtey picked up Graham in one-on-one coverage on many snaps once Talib left the game and said the defense had incentive to shut down Graham.

"All week, we knew. All we kept hearing was, 'Jimmy Graham,' and we knew we'd have to come in and play," McCourtey said. "We'd have to play him tough, and you don't come in and say, 'We just want to contain him.' ... We've got to try to shut him down.

"That's the only way we'll have a chance to win this game, because if he has the type of games he's been having, we'll have no shot. It was a total team effort. Aqib did a great job early. We had a bunch of different guys -- Kyle (Arrington) had a big interception and a big play on the goal line against him. So guys stepped up and played tonight."

A lower left leg injury also slowed Graham after he leapt for a Brees pass late in the third quarter, which turned into an interception. Graham limped off the field after the play as trainers tended to his injury.

Graham returned later in the fourth quarter and played during the Saints' final touchdown drive, but he left the field with trainers after the drive. Payton wouldn't elaborate on Graham's injury, and Graham wasn't in the locker room during the postgame media availability.

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