NEW ORLEANS (AP) Saints rookie Brandin Cooks raced by defensive backs Tramon Williams and Micah Hyde, then looked Drew Brees’ 50-yard heave into his hands as he rolled into the end zone.
Cooks was taken in the first round last spring to give New Orleans a versatile speedster who could get the corner on an end run or beat defenders deep in the passing game. He did both to help the Saints roll to 44-23 victory Sunday night over a Green Bay squad that came in on a four-game winning streak.
Cooks scored on a 4-yard ”jet sweep” in which he took a handoff after going in motion and sprinted around the left side of the line. The 50-yarder in the third quarter gave New Orleans (3-4) the lead for good and was one of six catches he made for 94 yards.
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”He came up with a big one,” quarterback Drew Brees said about Cooks’ long TD, adding that the play ”lit a fire.”
If Cooks keeps getting better, it’ll be a problem for opposing defenses already trying to contend with tight end Jimmy Graham and Saints all-time receiver Marques Colston. Then there’s New Orleans’ running game, which gained nearly 200 yards against Green Bay, led by Mark Ingram’s career high 172 yards on 24 carries, including a 21-yard touchdown.
”I feel like we showed the world that we have a special team,” Cooks said. ”Once we click on all cylinders, we are dangerous.”
The Packers (5-3) nearly piled up 500 yards of their own, but were done in by turnovers and third-down failures that forced them to settle for field goals on a couple drives inside the New Orleans 20.
It didn’t help that Aaron Rodgers pulled his hamstring, although that couldn’t stop him from passing for 418 yards, including a 70-yard scoring pass to Randall Cobb, or from running for a 14-yard score in the fourth quarter.
”We would have had to score 45 to win,” Rodgers said. ”And we could have if we had done a better job taking care of the football and scoring in the red zone with touchdowns.”
Here are some things to know about New Orleans’ explosive performance against Green Bay:
BIG-TIME BLOCKING: Saints coach Sean Payton, Brees and Ingram all raved about the performance of New Orleans’ offensive line. Although Brees took two sacks, he was protected well enough to complete all but five of his 32 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns. New Orleans also rushed for 193 yards on 31 carries as a team, an average of 6.2 yards per carry. ”The offensive line did a great job of getting a push off the ball and creating seams,” Ingram said. ”All credit to the O-line.”
LACY’S LOAD: Packers running back Eddie Lacy, who grew up in the New Orleans suburb of Gretna, was one of the most dominant players on the field. He gained 182 yards from scrimmage, including 123 yards receiving on eight catches out of the back field. He turned one first-half catch into a 67 yard gain to set up a field goal. Ingram was impressed with his former college teammate. ”He was behind me and Trent (Richardson) at Alabama. Can you believe that?” Ingram said. ”You saw how big a playmaker he is and how important he is to their team.”
GRAHAM’S GAINS: Either Saints tight end Jimmy Graham is getting used to playing with a sprained shoulder, or he’s just getting healthier. Held without a catch a week earlier in Detroit, Graham caught five passes for 59 yards, including a tough 22-yard touchdown.
TIME OFF: While Rodgers’ hamstring pull in the third quarter led coach Mike McCarthy to line the QB up in shotgun formation to reduce his exposure to further injury, Rodgers remained confident after the game that he would not miss any playing time. It helps that Green Bay is entering its bye week and won’t play again until Nov. 9 against Chicago in another Sunday night game.
QUICK TURNAROUND: Because all of their divisional foes lost on Sunday, the Saints have a chance to vault into first place in the NFC South before the week is over. New Orleans plays at division-leading Carolina (3-4-1) on Thursday night. The question is whether the Saints, who are 3-0 at home, can win on the road, where they’re 0-4 this season.
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