While he’s been the hottest receiver in the NFL the past four weeks, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham knows when and where to give credit for at least some of his success.
Graham has 548 receiving yards in the last four games, the most by a tight end over a four-game span in NFL history — a productive stretch that includes an NFL record-tying four 100-yard games in a row.
When asked what he tells Drew Brees about what he’s seeing from defenses, Graham said he rarely has to say anything to the six-time Pro Bowl pick.
“Normally, Drew sees it before they even do it,” said Graham, who leads the NFL with 593 receiving yards. “He alerts me during the week, or sometimes I come to him with questions like, ‘What was that safety doing?’
“He’ll be like, ‘Listen, they’re just making that up … and this is what they’re going to do and this is how you need to beat it.’ That’s just the kind of quarterback he is. He sees it all and helps me to be a better tight end.”
In Sunday’s game with the New England Patriots, Graham will go for a fifth straight 100-yard receiving game by a tight end — which would break the mark he already shares with Tony Gonzalez.
PRODUCTION SQUARED: Sunday’s game in Gillette Stadium will bring together two of the most productive offenses in the NFL over the past seven-plus seasons.
Since 2006, when Sean Payton and Brees joined forces with the Saints, they’ve led the league in total yards with Tom Brady and the Patriots in second.
Over that 117-game stretch, the Saints have 47,109 total yards for a 402.6 per game average; the Patriots have 45,385 for a 387.9 average.
In scoring, the Patriots lead the NFL with 3,494 points and a 29.9 average, while the Saints are second with 3,291 points and a 28.1 average.
LEAVING EARLY: For the second week in a row, the Saints are leaving early for a road game.
Payton said Thursday that his team will leave for Sunday’s game with the Patriots on Friday instead of the traditional Saturday departure.
“It’s a longer flight, so we will plan on going tomorrow out in the afternoon,” said Payton, adding that the reason is because it’s a longer flight than usual.
The Saints left for last week’s game with the Chicago Bears on Friday afternoon because they didn’t want to have any travel delays with the expected arrival of Tropical Storm Karen.
PRACTICE REPORT: There were no changes in the Saints’ practice report Thursday from the one Payton issued on Wednesday.
Not participating Thursday were SS Roman Harper (knee), WR Lance Moore (hand), T Zach Strief (ankle) and DE Tyrunn Walker (knee).
Working on a limited basis were RB Mark Ingram (toe), NT Brodrick Bunkley (calf), FS Malcolm Jenkins (neck), CB Keenan Lewis (knee) and LB Ramon Humber (calf).
RIDLEY, BOLDEN LIMITED: For the Patriots, former LSU running back Stevan Ridley and former Scotlandville High School standout running back Brandon Bolden again had limited participation Thursday with knee injuries.
TE Rob Gronkowski (arm/back), WR Danny Amendola (groin), LB Dont’a Hightower (knee) and LB Jerod Mayo (ankle) were also among a list of 11 players who were limited in practice.
RB Leon Washington (ankle), DL Tommy Kelly (knee) and LB Jamie Collins (not injury-related) did not participate.
THE CALL IS … : Strief, who is one of the Saints’ offensive captains along with Brees, was put on the spot before Sunday’s game with the Bears.
When referee Scott Green asked who would call on the coin toss, Brees, who normally makes the call, pointed to Strief. He made the right call and the Saints deferred to the second half.
“I’ll take the win … I’m one-for-one on coin tosses,” said a beaming Strief, who played his college ball at nearby Northwestern University. “I don’t ever want to call it again. I’m undefeated, one-for-one.”
DOING IT WITH ‘D’: The Saints’ defense has allowed 73 points in its first five games, holding each of their opponents to 19 points or less.
The 73 points is two fewer than they gave up in their first two games of a miserable 2012 season when they fell to the Washington Redskins (40-32) and Carolina Panthers (35-28).
The Saints eventually gave up 154 points in their first five games in 2012, more than twice as many as they’ve allowed this season.