Apparently we were worried about not having our favorite QB, Drew Brees, sitting out for nothing. The Saints proved to have plenty of offensive power Friday night in their 26-24 victory over the St. Louis Rams — most of it provided by rookie receiver Brandin Cooks and running back Mark Ingram.
Cooks had a slow start against the Rams, it took a few quarters for the Saints’s first round draft pick to really show some power, but he finished with five receptions for 55 yards and a dynamite 25 yard touchdown in the third quarter from Ryan Griffin.
“We’ve been seeing (Cooks) progress,” Saints coach Sean Payton said about the rookie’s performance. “He’s done some good things. He’s quick with the ball in his hands. We were trying to monitor snaps for all of our receivers but also give them all a chance for touches. I thought he played hard, he’s smart, and he lines up quick. We’ll keep bringing him along but there’s still a lot of things he needs to work on.”
Ingram picked up where he left off last season, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama and 2011 first round draft pick by the Saints, scored a 22 run yard in the second quarter and looked impressive in his lone half of action. He finished with 83 yards on only eight carries.
Ryan Griffin, who entered the game late in the first quarter put up better numbers than Luke McCown, who started the game in place of the injured Drew Brees. Griffin was 16 of 23 for 179 yards and the TD pass to Cooks. McCown, who played a few possessions in the first quarter, was 7 of 10 for 49 yards. He had the Saints moving on their opening possession until Rams defensive end Chris Long made an athletic interception of a screen pass.
“I was encouraged by our ability to run the ball and their efforts,” Payton said. “It was nice to see a couple of big plays.”
The St. Louis Rams scored their points on a 16 yard TD from Shaun Hill to Cory Harkey, a 24-yard scoring pass from Hill to Stedman Bailey, a 45-yard goal from Greg Zuerlein and a 15 yard TD pass from Austin Davis to Austin Franklin.
Our defensive line looked ok but may still have a lot of work todo before the season gets started. A few of the Saints young defense still lack something to be desired. Stanley Jean-Baptiste showed he still has learning to do, he was on coverage during a Rams’ touchdown—Bailey was able haul in a back shoulder throw from Shaun Hill over Jean Baptiste. Vinnie Sunseri was cited for roughing the passer after breaking through the line and putting a jarring hit on the quarterback. He saw extensive time on special teams and finished the night with four tackles. Pierre Warren nearly had an interception late in the game but couldn’t hang on. He was one of two Saints credited with a pass deflection.
The Saints scored the rest of their points on a 2 yard run by Khiry Robinson and a pair of 37 yard field goals one each from Shayne Graham and Derek Dimke.
Graham missed a 33 yard extra point (a distance the NFL is experimenting with) in the first half of the game. This wasn’t something Payton seemed too happy with no matter the experimental distance, stating “I’d like to think we could hit a field goal when the ball’s on the 15.”
Besides the missed extra point the Saints had a few other miscues. Another on special teams when the Rams were able to convert a punt fake in the third quarter and the team had two turnovers — the impressive interception by Long— and fourth string QB Logan Kilgore had a tipped ball picked off late in the fourth quarter. The team did commit 10 penalties for 104 yards.
This left the Rams with a chance to win the game on a 59-yard field goal but thankful Zuerlein’s kick went left.
“We had far too many penalties tonight,” Payton said. “We made a lot of silly mistakes and we have to clean up in all areas.”