Jimmy Graham’s three drops a career high

METAIRIE, La. -- Jimmy Graham had another quiet day in Sunday’s 41-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Only this time, the New Orleans Saints’ standout tight end had himself to blame as much as the defensive game plan.

Graham dropped a career-high three passes, according to ESPN Stats and Information, and had two other potential catches broken up as they hit his hands.

Graham finished with only three catches for 25 yards -- two of which came in “garbage time” in the final two minutes. He had another catch nullified by a penalty.

Graham was officially targeted 10 times, though two of them were throwaways by Drew Brees under pressure.

The Panthers played good, physical defense against Graham, with standout linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis and safety Roman Harper each breaking up at least one pass. But they didn’t use many double teams on him.

And Saints coach Sean Payton didn’t let Graham off the hook.

“I think overall, he like the rest of the guys on offense, there were things that you look at the tape and you think ... we've got to be better at. We've got to be able to handle some balls that are thrown our way,” Payton said. “And sometimes it's going to be tight and sometimes it's going to be bumped. That's part of the deal.”

Graham hasn’t spoken to the media since Sunday’s game.

Drops haven’t been a season-long issue for Graham, who was credited for only two all season by ESPN Stats and Info before Sunday.

And Sunday’s game played out much differently than the game at Pittsburgh two weeks ago, when Graham wasn’t targeted once. In that game, the Steelers used a heavy dose of double coverage on Graham, and the Saints made them pay with touchdown passes to five different receivers, 162 receiving yards for Kenny Stills, and 122 rushing yards by Mark Ingram.

Overall this season, Graham’s production is a bit below expectations -- mostly because the Saints haven’t been able to get him or any of their receivers open deep down the field on a consistent basis.

Graham is on pace for 84 catches, 855 yards and 11 touchdowns. The catches and touchdowns are typical -- but the yardage is down significantly.

The shoulder injury that Graham suffered in Week 5 doesn’t appear to be an issue with his ability to catch the football or with his snap counts. Although Graham admitted this past Friday that the shoulder has “really held me back at times” as a blocker, he has still put up some big games since suffering the injury. He had 31 catches and six touchdowns during a five-game span from Weeks 8-12.

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