By Brady Henderson
When we last saw Jimmy Graham, the Saints' All-Pro tight end was being neutralized for the second time in six weeks. He had squared off with one Seahawk before that playoff loss at CenturyLink Field, and afterward he was called soft and overrated by another.
On Friday, when Graham joined "Mike and Mike in the Morning" on ESPN Radio and the subject of Seattle's defense came up, he was, well, quite complimentary.
Tight end Jimmy Graham, pictured before the Saints' playoff loss to the Seahawks, said Seattle's defense was "no doubt" the best New Orleans faced in 2013. (AP)
Graham led all tight ends with 1,215 receiving yards and scored a league-high 16 touchdowns, but in two games against Seattle he was held to four receptions for 50 yards and one score. The Saints had one of their worst offensive performances in recent memory during a Week-13 loss to the Seattle, and they only fared a little better when the teams met again in the divisional round.
Graham said the speed of Seattle's defense took the Saints by surprise.
"That defense, they're so young and they're so athletic," he said. "I remember sometimes being behind the linebackers and catching a ball and turning and literally being hit the second I caught it – and the guy was 10 yards from me.
"To start the season, everyone's pretty fresh and everyone's running around so everyone has that speed, but you're looking at in the playoffs and late in the season that this team is still running like it's the offseason ... especially when we went and played them the first time up in Seattle, we were kind of caught off guard, because the teams we were playing everyone's kind of the same speed and all the sudden you go up there and it's loud and these guys, all 11 of them are screaming to the ball."
Physicality is the other defining trait of Seattle's defense, especially in the secondary. Graham suggested the Seahawks get away with pass interference at times.
"They're the type of team that they're very, very aggressive," he said. "So I think they teach, 'Listen, they're not going to call the PI, so just grab and hold as much as you can and if you get one or two, well, that's fine out of 10.' So they're just a very aggressive team."
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.