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Strong defense catalyst for Saints' rout

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Posted Aug. 12, 2011 @ 11:47 p.m. ET

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Mark Ingram had a spinning, tackle-breaking touchdown run in his NFL debut, and the New Orleans Saints defeated the San Francisco 49ers 24-3 in the preseason opener for both teams on Friday night.

Ingram's 14-yard scoring run highlighted a performance in which the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner out of Alabama carried six times for 23 yards.

Saints undrafted rookie Joseph Morgan, a little known prospect out of Walsh University, added a spectacular 78-yard punt return for a score.

David Akers hit a 59-yard field goal for San Francisco, a kick set up by rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick's 28-yard scramble late in the first half.

Starters played less than a quarter, and defense dominated during that scoreless stint.

The game also marked the NFL head coaching debut of former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, a former NFL quarterback who will want to see better performances out of starter Alex Smith and his offensive line.

The Niners did not get a first down on their first four series, three of which were thwarted by hits on Smith.

Will Smith had a sack and had another hit that caused an errant pass. Roman Harper had a sack and strip on a safety blitz, but the Niners recovered.

The Saints' normally prolific first-team offense failed to produce a first down on its first three series. The second possession ended when Drew Brees was nearly intercepted by safety Donte Whitner. The third stalled when a long pass over the middle went through receiver Robert Meachem's hands.

Brees' finished 1 of 4 for 6 yards before Chase Daniel came on to get New Orleans' first first down on a 19-yard scramble, which had 15 yards added for a late hit. That set up Garrett Hartley's 47-yard field goal for the first points of the game.

Smith finished 2 of 7 for only 10 yards.

Kaepernick played most of the game for the 49ers, and his scrambling ability was evident as he wound up being the 49ers leading rusher with 47 yards. He was 9 of 19 for 117 yards passing but also was intercepted twice, first by cornerback Terrail Lambert and later by rookie linebacker Nate Bussey.

Daniel was 13 of 21 for 129 yards and led all three Saints scoring drives before being relieved by Sean Canfield in the final minutes. Joique Bell led New Orleans on the ground with 52 yards on nine carries.

Ingram's touchdown gave the Saints a 17-0 lead late in the first half. Saints reserve running back Chris Taylor added a 4-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for the final margin.

Morgan came into the game as a relatively unknown small college player who didn't even return punts at Walsh last season. That was hardly evident on his long return, when he used a graceful spin, three broken tackles, a couple cutbacks and breakaway speed to get to the end zone. The native of Canton, Ohio, who was a receiver in college, also had one catch for 21 yards.

Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

 

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