Physical play inspired Jimmy Graham vs. Panthers

Drew Brees was picked off on the New Orleans Saints' first drive of a 28-10 declawing of the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night. As the ball took flight, Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis walloped tight end Jimmy Graham right under the chin.

“That block came before the ball was even tipped, you know?" said Graham, who didn't miss a snap after the hit, per the Charlotte Observer. "That wasn't a block, that was a hit and it seemed like that was intentional."

The physical play from the Panthers fired up the behemoth, who has been dealing with a shoulder injury.

"Early in the game they were trying to come after me," Graham said. "Even in my routes, I was just getting hit -- literally getting hit. So, I've got to protect myself better. It definitely got me going and sparked a fire underneath me."

The play certainly provoked Graham, who on the next drive decided to hurdle over safety Roman Harper on 19-yard gain. The tight end finished with seven catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. His return from injury has helped re-open a somewhat listless Saints offense.

“I just need to play more emotional," Graham said. "I think early I wasn't playing emotional enough -- at least for me. ... And when I do that, I think it adds something not only to my game, but it helps spur our offense."

After scoring his late first-half touchdown Graham decided to display that emotion with a Gus Frerotte-esque celebration.

"That's just me probably letting out a little frustration," Graham said, explaining why he head-butted the bench after the score. "We've been tested in so many ways this year and there have been a lot of people that have written us off. That was more of, just getting out some frustration that's been on me for quite awhile now."

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