Graham Proves He's Capable Of Carrying Load
Joe Henderson, The Tampa Tribune, published 22 October 2007

The Bucs have been scouring the NFL for the past couple weeks, looking for any running back they could find to help a unit depleted by injuries. But the way Earnest Graham played Sunday was perhaps the biggest positive to come out of a deflating 23-16 loss to Detroit.

Graham had his best overall day in his three-plus-year career, rushing for 92 yards and catching 13 passes for 99 more. 'Earnest did some excellent things as a ball carrier and as a receiver, to say the least,' Jon Gruden said.

His play calmed, temporarily at least, fears that the Bucs wouldn't have enough of a ground game to contend for a playoff spot. They had gained 47 yards on the ground the last two weeks combined before Sunday. To shore up that unit, they acquired veteran Zack Crockett as a free agent and made a trade with Kansas City for Michael Bennett. Bennett showed his speed with an 18-yard burst in the fourth quarter to Detroit's 1 - the Bucs lost a fumbled snap a play later - but this day was about Graham.

'Things are starting to pick up,' Graham said. 'I'm starting to see my reads a little better and get better in the passing game. I'm trying to improve every week. I'm somewhat happy with that tonight, the progress, but the score doesn't show it as far as the team is concerned.'

The biggest surprise was how effectively Graham worked as a receiver. His 13 catches eclipsed his receiving total for his entire career prior to the game - he had one catch for 4 yards in his first three full seasons in the league, then 10 more through the first six games of this season. He also tied James Wilder's team record for most receptions in a game. The Lions played Cover 2 on defense almost exclusively, which took away a lot of deep routes and made Graham a big player coming out of the backfield.

'He did a great job when he had the opportunity of running the football to get north and south and get positive yardage, and then he was huge coming out of the backfield as a receiver,' Jeff Garcia said. 'We knew the way they play defensively that he was going to be critical in the passing game. He took advantage of that. We couldn't have asked any more out of him today. He did a great job.'

Graham said he just needs to build on this game and carry it through the rest of the season. 'It's getting better,' he said. 'I didn't feel like I played too well last week. I felt like I was kind of rusty in the passing game - I wasn't on time with Jeff - and I wasn't seeing things too well in the run game. Today, I just felt more comfortable, but at the same time I'm definitely down right now. Any time you go out there and you don't come away with the victory, it's tough. We know we let it get away. We had too many mistakes. You have games like that in the NFL, and when you do, you lose. We have to make sure that doesn't happen again.'