ST. LOUIS – Drew Brees and Sam Bradford watched in street clothes, leaving the Saints-Rams preseason opener to the backup quarterbacks.
However, St. Louis’ Michael Sam, got a lot of playing time.
The Rams wasted no time getting Sam in the game and the first openly gay player drafted in the NFL made a solid debut as a reserve defensive end in a 26-24 loss to New Orleans on Friday night.
Sam was a seventh-round draft pick and he’s attempting to launch his pro career a two-hour drive from where he starred on a 12-win Missouri team that played in the SEC title game last season.
He dropped his weight to 257 pounds so he’d be a viable special teams option on a team that already has a strong pass rush, but got extended playing time at left defensive end.
Mark Ingram had eight carries for 83 yards and a 22-yard touchdown in the first half.
Luke McCown started in place of Brees, limited by a left oblique injury for a week. First-round pick Brandin Cooks caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from third-stringer Ryan Griffin in the third quarter.
Bradford was held out as a precaution coming off knee surgery. Shaun Hill got the start and threw two touchdown passes in the first half.
Greg Zuerlein was barely wide left on a 59-yard field goal attempt on the final play after missing a 46-yard attempt with just under six minutes remaining.
The Rams started both of their first-round picks, offensive lineman Greg Robinson and defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Robinson, the second overall pick of the draft, started at left guard and also played left tackle.
Attendance was announced at 54,850, about 12,000 shy of capacity at the Edward Jones Dome.
The stadium appeared to be at less than half capacity not long after the opening kickoff and dwindled to perhaps one-third by the finish for the matchup between the Rams, who’ve had consecutive seven-win seasons under coach Jeff Fisher, and the 11-win Saints.
Chris Long, the longtime starter at left end for St. Louis, intercepted McCown on the opening series to set up Cory Harkey’s 16-yard touchdown catch.
Sam began playing on the next series and made two nice plays in the second quarter, pressuring Griffin into an incompletion and getting a tackle.
Saints kicker Shayne Graham botched an extra-point kick from the longer distance being used the first two weeks of the preseason, hooking it off the left crossbar in the second quarter.