Rams fall to the Saints in preseason opener

Mark Ingram (Getty Images)

ST. LOUIS — The Rams had two chances in the final 5 minutes and 7 seconds to kick a long field goal that would have given them a lead over the Saints in their preseason opener on Friday night. But both times Greg Zuerlein’s kick sailed wide left of the uprights.

Zuerlein missed from 46 yards out with 5:07 remaining and then missed again from 59 yards out on a hurried try as time expired. The second attempt, which was pushed back 10 yards and with a 10-second run-off because of intentional grounding penalty, had the distance but went wide.

So the Saints escaped the Edward Jones Dome with a 26-24 victory.

“How’s that for an ending, huh?” Rams coach Jeff Fisher asked reporters in his post-game press conference. “You hope that when you get into the preseason games that there’s enough things that take place there that you can learn from and learn lessons and teach from and we got our share today, I’ll tell you that.”

There were some good moments for the Rams (0-1) and some not so good, which is to be expected when you’re running out there without your starting quarterback, three starting offensive linemen and your top three cornerbacks.

“We set out to play a lot of people,” Fisher said. The plan was to basically play about 15 to 18 snaps with our starters and that’s what we got in.”

HIGHLIGHTS

Chris Long tipped and intercepted a third-down pass to end the Saints’ first series.

Shaun Hill turned that Long interception into a touchdown pass to Cory Harkey and later found Stedman Bailey for another touchdown pass.

Rookie sixth-round quarterback Garrett Gilbert’s first series was a two-minute drill at the end of the first half where he led the Rams down the field into field goal position, which turned into a 45-yard field goal by Zuerlein to give the Rams a 17-16 lead at halftime.

Chase Reynolds had a 38-yard run on a fake punt late in the third quarter.

Austin Davis and undrafted rookie Austin Franklin hooked up for a 15-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

Undrafted rookie tight end Alex Bayer had a big night. He caught five passes for 71 yards, leading St. Louis in both categories. He caught a 42-yard pass in the second half.

Undrafted rookie linebacker Johnny Millard had an interception late.

STATS

Hill completed five of seven passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns in the first half. He connected with Harkey for a 16-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and then found Bailey for a 24-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.

Zac Stacy ran for 22 yards on four carries in the first half.

Gilbert completed five of eight passes for 46 yards in the first half, but completed just one of three passes for seven yards in the second half. He finished with a QB rating of 67.7.

Davis, who is competing with Gilbert for the third-quarterback spot, completed 10 of 16 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown and a QB rating of 109.9.

With starter Sam Bradford on the sideline, the Rams’ three QBs combined to complete 21 of 34 passes for 271 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions and a QB rating of 116.2.

The Rams rushed for 150 yards on 32 carries, an average of 4.7 per. But if you take away Reynolds’ 38-yard scamper on the fake punt and that average drops to 3.6 yards per carry.

Rookie third rounder Tre Mason carried 15 times for 51 yards, for a 3.4 average. His longest run covered 20 yards.

Rookie cornerback E.J. Gaines, a sixth-round pick out of Mizzou, got the start with three cornerbacks sitting out and produced a team-high six tackles.

NOTEWORTHY

Mason Brodine, who was competing for the fourth tight end spot after making the transition from defensive end, suffered a fractured ankle and will miss the rest of the season, Fisher said.

Rookie defensive end Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in the NFL, made his first appearance late in the first quarter and was credited with one tackle and one quarterback hurry for the game.

You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch or email him at natelatsch@gmail.com

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