GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) – Whether it was earlier in his career at New Orleans or the past few seasons in Seattle, two things were common for tight end Jimmy Graham: production and victories.
Both are in short supply in his first season with the Green Bay Packers. Graham enters Sunday’s game at Chicago with only two touchdown catches and the Packers with a 5-7-1 record.
“My numbers suck,” Graham said Friday. “That’s not what it’s about, you know? I just want to win games. If I have one catch for 2 yards and we win, I don’t care. Obviously, it’s not great when you’re not helping us win, and that’s what I see.”
Graham, who has played the last two games with a brace to protect a broken thumb, has caught 46 passes for 549 yards. That’s second on the team in receptions, and while the production might wind up being better than it was last season for the Seahawks, when he caught 57 passes for 520 yards, Graham also led all NFL tight ends with 10 touchdowns a year ago. With Seattle in 2016, Graham caught 65 passes for 923 yards. With the Saints from 2011 through 2014, he averaged 89 receptions, 1,099 yards and 11.5 touchdowns.
While the Packers probably weren’t expecting the 32-year-old Graham to duplicate that kind of production, they no doubt were expecting more than a couple touchdowns when they signed him to a three-year, $30 million contract in March.
For his part, Graham was expecting to join a championship contender. Instead, the Packers fired coach Mike McCarthy after a loss to Arizona on Dec. 2 and could be eliminated from the playoff race on Sunday.
“I’ve never lost this much, so it’s obviously not something I’m used to,” Graham said. “I’ll never be OK with losing. I love to win. We’ve got to get back to that. Last week was a great step in the right direction. We’ve just got to do what we can control and try to keep winning.”
For the Packers to win back-to-back games for the first time this season, they will have to contain Chicago’s ferocious defense. The Bears enter the game ranked third in points allowed and first in takeaways. Chicago linebacker Khalil Mack has 10 sacks and six forced fumbles. Along with catching the ball, Graham will be part of the plan to keep Mack away from quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“In this offseason, the tight end does a lot of stuff,” Graham said. “I’ve got a lot of responsibilities – just not running routes and out here catching the ball like a receiver. That’s just how it is. I’m just trying to do my job and do what I’m told. . Obviously, we’re going to play a great defense that’s got a great rush. I’ll be a part of stopping that rush, and that’s just how it is.”
Graham caught only two passes for 8 yards in the season-opening victory over Chicago. He caught eight passes in the loss to the Cardinals but had only two receptions for 13 yards last week against Atlanta. He had a chance for a 57-yard touchdown reception but couldn’t make the play. The brace, he admitted, has been limiting.
“You don’t want to shatter your thumb,” Graham said. “That’s not great, but it is what it is.”
Notes: RT Bryan Bulaga, who spent most of the first matchup against Chicago blocking Mack, is doubtful with a knee injury. That means Jason Spriggs is in line for his second consecutive start. … CB Bashaud Breeland (groin/personal reasons) and defensive tackle Kenny Clark (elbow) are questionable. Due to the death of a close friend, Breeland was away from the team on Wednesday and Thursday, according to interim coach Joe Philbin.
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