SEATTLE — Jimmy Graham’s statement about his most productive game since suffering a major knee injury was left to what he did on the field, all of it coming in one impressive half on Sunday.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete and it’s going to be cool to see him develop more so in our offense this year,” Seattle tight end Luke Willson said.
Less than a year after suffering a torn patellar tendon in his right knee, Graham was back to being a focal point for Seattle.
He finished with six catches for 100 yards and just his third touchdown catch with the Seahawks in a 37-18 romp of the San Francisco 49ers .
All of his catches came in the first half as Seattle built a 24-3 lead and rolled to a fifth straight regular-season win over the 49ers.
After the game, Graham shared smiles and a handshake with team owner Paul Allen in the Seahawks’ locker room, then disappeared down a hallway and didn’t poke his head back into the locker room again.
“He wanted to have this kind of impact in the game,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “He looked great. It’s thrilling to see him.”
Graham was not supposed to be back by now. Being back on the field in 9½ months is not the typical timeline of an injury as severe as the one he suffered last November against Pittsburgh and just as he was beginning to find a more prominent role in Seattle’s offense.
Carroll continued to say through the offseason that Graham was on pace to be ready for the season opener and he proved correct when Graham took the field in Week 1 against Miami.
But getting back on the field and being the threat Graham was in the past are two separate matters. And the latter is what Graham showed against the 49ers.
His 18-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter came on a broken play when Russell Wilson scrambled left and found Graham coming open in the middle of the field. But his two most important catches both came in third-down situations.
Seattle was facing third-and-15 on its second possession. Wilson threw a strike down the middle and Graham was able to hold on to an 18-yard catch despite a crunching hit from safety Eric Reid. Graham caught a 12-yard pass later in the drive to set up Christine Michael’s second TD run of the game.
But the catch everyone was talking about was Graham’s 40-yard jump-ball reception where he wrestled the ball out of Reid’s arms as he came down.
It was a free play because the 49ers had jumped offside, but Wilson gave Graham the chance to use his athleticism and size to make the catch. He also showed a trust in Graham that was always being worked on last season.
“He’s like 6-(foot)-9. Just throw it up to him,” Wilson joked. “You look down the field just trying to find somebody and there is this big guy running down the field and just tried to give him a chance.”
Graham was once the primary target of a pass-happy offense as he was during his time in New Orleans. That’s not how it works in Seattle, even with Marshawn Lynch gone and Wilson having shown he can run more of a pass-based offense.
What he showed against the 49ers was still having the ability to make defenses account for his presence on the field.
“Jimmy has done an excellent job of being patient. Sometimes it can be frustrating because he came from an offense where he was seeing all these targets and that’s just not the way that we do it here,” Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin said.
“But he’s been patient and he’s bought in with the fact that we’re more about controlling the game with the ground game and making the best of our opportunities when we get the targets. … He’s fully bought into the fact that this is how we play football.”