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New Orleans Saints beat St. Louis Rams 26-24 in preseason opener

Mark Ingram, Brandin Cooks, Ryan Griffin have strong games

Associated Press images from the New Orleans Saints first preseason game at the St. Louis Rams on Friday, August 8, 2014.

Rookie receiver Brandin Cooks scored in his debut game with the New Orleans Saints, running back Mark Ingram picked up where he left off last season and the defense kept the St. Louis Rams offense under wraps as the Saints won their preseason opener 26-24 at the Edward Jones Dome.

It took a couple of quarters for Cooks, the team's first-round draft pick to get going, but he finished with five receptions for 55 yards and a dynamic 25-yard touchdown in the third quarter from Ryan Griffin.

Ingram, a former Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama and a 2011 first-round pick by the Saints, scored on a 22-yard run in the second quarter and looked very impressive in his lone half of action. He finished with 83 yards on just eight carries.

Griffin, who entered the game late in the first quarter, put up better numbers than Luke McCown, who started the game in place of a slightly injured Drew Brees. Griffin was 16 of 23 for 179 yards and the TD pass to Cooks. McCown, who just 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.

St. Louis scored its points on a 16-yard TD pass from Shaun Hill to Cory Harkey, a 24-yard scoring pass from Hill to Stedman Bailey, a 45-yard field goal from Greg Zuerlein and a 15-yard TD pass from Austin Davis to Austin Franklin.

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.

It was a solid team effort with just a few miscues. Two of those miscues happened on special teams as Graham missed a 33-yard extra point (a distance the NFL is experimenting with) and the Rams converted a punt fake in the third quarter. 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.

The Rams had a chance to win the game on a 59-yard field goal but Zuerlein's kick went left.

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