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New Orleans Saints TE Jimmy Graham Triumphant in Return From Injury

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COMMENTARY | After his status was uncertain for two weeks, TE Jimmy Graham scored two TDs as the New Orleans Saints defeated the Buffalo Bills 35-17.

Coming off their bye week, the Saints were somewhat secretive concerning whether or not Graham would play Sunday. But considering that he did not practice for most of the week, most people in New Orleans assumed that Graham would watch the game from the sidelines. On the other hand, Saints head coach Sean Payton probably relished the opportunity to play mind games with his friend, Buffalo Bills head coach Doug Marrone.

Although the Saints never confirmed the report, some media outlets reported that Jimmy Graham had suffered a partially torn plantar fascia in his foot. This is a particularly painful injury that has sidelined many NFL players for weeks. But if he could withstand the pain, then Graham could be healthy enough to play. Regardless of which scenario was true, Jimmy Graham turned out to be a major contributor in the Saints' big win.

Early on, it was apparent that Payton would be limiting Graham's snaps. Saints TE Ben Watson is a capable pass receiver and a good run blocker. So New Orleans didn't miss a beat when Watson was in the game. Saints fans also got a look at rookie TE Josh Hill, who caught two passes for 17 yards. Graham's limited snaps also enabled QB Drew Brees to spread the ball around. In fact, 10 different players caught passes for New Orleans.

For the most part, the Saints saved Jimmy Graham for critical plays in the red zone when the game was still in doubt. Although Drew Brees targeted him only three times, Graham caught all three passes for 37 yards and two TDs. I don't know if Graham's fantasy football owners had enough faith in his health to start him, but those of us who did start him were rewarded with his typically prolific TD output for New Orleans.

Although CBS color analyst Dan Dierdorf kept making the Bills' defense sound like the '85 Chicago Bears all day, New Orleans finished with 409 total yards of offense. Also, Drew Brees posted his first 300 yard passing game since Week 4 and his five TD passes were a season high. The Saints were probably not pleased with their running game, but RB Pierre Thomas did enough to keep the Bills' defensive line honest after generating a lot of pressure early on.

If Jimmy Graham does have a partially torn plantar fascia, he will likely be limited for some time. However, he showed his toughness today in New Orleans and opposing defenses will have to deal with him in the red zone in the coming weeks. His injury also gives Sean Payton an opportunity to use Graham as a decoy in the future. Defensive coordinators must still respect Graham as an option, which will open things up for the Saints' other talented receivers.

Even in less than perfect health, Jimmy Graham is still one of the most talented tight ends in the NFL and his presence on the field will do wonders for New Orleans for the rest of the season.

Patrick Michael lives in New Orleans and has always been a big fan of the New Orleans Saints. Patrick's favorite Saints season was 2009 when New Orleans won Super Bowl 44. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.

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