The second to last preseason game is the one fans get excited about. It’s the game teams prepare for as it were a regular season game. Saturday night’s first half between the Saints and Texans certainly entertained fans but may have also prepared them for what could be a cardiac season.
The Saints and Texans combined offensively for 457 yards, 29 first downs, 48 points and 5 turnovers (all fumbles) in a half of football that took almost two hours to play. By the time the two teams walked to their respective locker rooms for halftime, the scoreboard read a 24-24 tie. A game the Saints would hold on to win 34-27.
“This is a good offense that we played tonight,” said Vitt during his post game chat with the media. “The best play caller in football is Sean Payton and Gary Kubiak isn’t far behind. He knows exactly what he’s calling. He does a great job with his progression, running something to set you up for something. Andrew Johnson is one of the top two or three receivers in the National Football League. They have an outstanding running game that compliments their passing game.”
Houston quickly put up 14 points out of the gate before the Saints would respond with 14 straight points of their own. “Give credit to them. I give credit to our guys it looked bleak early, down 14, we hung in there forced a couple of turnovers got the offense a short field and our guys competed,” said Vitt of the back and forth battle early in the game.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees was 17 of 25 for 179 yards to go with a pair of touchdowns, one to wide receiver Lance Moore and one to tight end Jimmy Graham. Brees played only the first half of the game.
Houston quarterback Matt Schaub was equally as impressive going 15 of 18 for 194 yards to go with a touchdown. Three of the first five Texans possessions resulted in touchdowns and it’s something that probably had many Saints fans worried about the Black and Gold's ability to stop the pass. Vitt however, said he is not concerned about the way Jacksonville and now Houston were able to move the ball rather easily through the air, attributing it mostly to his guys still learning a new defense.
The Saints defense did manage to catch its breath by getting a few stops to force field goals and stopping drives with turnovers. “I thought we were more physical tonight. I thought we took better angles to the ball tonight. I thought we were more resilient tonight once we fell behind,” Vitt said of his defense. “I thought the young kids played better in the second half then they did against Jacksonville. That’s why I thought we played better.”
Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis, defensive end Will Smith and fellow defensive end Junior Galette each had a fumble recovery with Galette’s being a 16 yard recovery and run for a touchdown.
No question the Saints defense had trouble stopping the Texans early on. Houston is a very good offensive team, add the Saints injuries at linebacker, and you kind of saw a rough go at stopping Shaub coming. That said you have to like how the team kept fighting and how some players stepped up. Safety Malcolm Jenkins had a big hit to cause a fumble, backup safety Isa Abdul-Quddus had some big plays, cornerback Patrick Robinson almost had two interceptions in the game and limited Houston’s Andrew Johnson to two catches for 30 yards. Linebacker Scott Shanle had some nice plays and new linebaker Barrett Ruud got in some action in the second half finishing the night with three tackles. It was good to see Turk McBride play a good amount of football recording two tackles and a sack.
In fact, the Saints defense recorded six sacks on the night. Defensive end Tyrunn Walker, Cornerback Cord Parks, defensive tackle Akiem Hicks, linebacker Kadarron Anderson and defensive end Cam Jordan all got to the quarterback.
Offensively the Saints did what they wanted to do in this game mainly get into a rhythm while finishing drives in the end zone. Quarterback Drew Brees made some great throws on the run, escaping pressure in the pocket, many times just finding where number 80 was and tossing it up to him. Graham, on the drive that would tie the game before the half, boxed out Texans defenders to get the pass and score. He would have had 57 additional yards on the drive but a penalty for lining up wrong negated an effort where he stiff armed a Texans defender for about 20 yards bringing the crown to their feet.
Assisstant head coach Joe Vitt saying after the game that the team is set to show back up to work in the building for 8am but that they will now turn their eyes towards Tropical Storm Isaac. Isaac is forecasted to strengthen into a hurricane making landfall as early Tuesday. The team has in the past adjusted their schedule due to tropical systems and could head to Nashville early for their preseason finale against the Titans on Thursday.