Earnest Graham had plenty of reasons to celebrate the Bucs 26-20 win over the New Orleans Saints.
“It was my turn to step in and carry the ball,” Graham said. “The offensive line did a great job. Just follow the holes, do what I’ve been doing for a long time. It was great.”
The 31-year-old Bucs running back stepped in place of injured starter LeGarrette Blount. Graham’s 109 rushing yards opened the team’s offense.
Quarterback Josh Freeman was the beneficiary. The play-action pass was effective, including a 65-yard touchdown pass to Arrelious Benn.
Freeman passed for 303 yards and two touchdowns one week after a two-interception game in a 45-point loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
“We expect to win every week. We have a good team,” Freeman said. “If we play up to our potential, we’re gonna have a chance to win every week and today we proved that.”
“Our expectations are always high,” Benn said. “We had a bitter taste in our mouth from the San Fran game. It was tough… We knew what we had to do and we came and delivered today.”
Graham provided the biggest delivery and helped plow the path to first in the division.
“We knew we weren’t gonna miss a beat with E.G. out there,” offensive tackle Donald Penn said.
“When it’s time for me to do whatever I need to do, whether that’s fullback, special teams or running back, I’ll do it,” Graham said. “That’s how it’s been for me for a long time.”