Posted by The Times-Picayune August 16, 2008 8:54PM
The good news for the Saints: it’s preseason.OK, maybe that’s not the only good thing to come out of the 31-27 loss to the Houston Texans, but there really wasn’t much else for the team to feel good about.
Oh, there were a couple decent scoring drives, a highlight reel touchdown by Reggie Bush and a spectacular catch by Marques Colston.
And, running back Deuce McAllister returned from his knee injury. While his numbers good – four carries for 16 yards, two receptions for 10 yards – the fact that he was back on the field was good enough.
“I felt like I played average at best,” McAllister said. “But it’s a start and you have to start somewhere.”
But one start the Saints definitely don’t want to experience again was the one they had defensively. The only highlight on that side of the ball was the starters didn’t have to play the whole game.
“When a team punts twice in a game, and we can say it’s preseason, but I thought our defense played poor,” said Saints coach Sean Payton. “This is a game where you want to see growth from Week 1 to Week 2, but in some ways I think we took a step backwards.”
The Saints defense did little to slow down the Texans, especially when it counted. Houston was 4-of-5 on third downs in the first half. Saints cornerback Jason David was picked on by Texans quarterback Matt Schaub for three third-down completions on a scoring drive in the first quarter.
Schaub was 14-of-16 for 187 yards and two touchdowns. Receiver Kevin Walter caught six passes for 100 yards and a score, a 26-yarder that beat David to the end zone.
Even with the shoddy defensive play, the Saints had a couple scoring opportunities they didn’t cash in on early.
After going three and out on their first drive, the Saints got a break when Houston’s Jacoby Jones fumbled a punt at the 10-yard line. But they again went three and out, moving the ball three yards. They settled for a Martin Gramatica field goal.
The Texans immediately marched 80 yards in 11 plays to go up 7-3 on a 26 yard pass from Schaub to Walter. Three times, twice on third down, the Texans burned David on passes on the left side.
The Saints drove to the 15 on their next possession before stalling and settling for another Gramatica field goal. Houston came right back and scored another touchdown on a 1-yard pass from Schaub to fullback Vonta Leach.
After that Texans touchdown, New Orleans’ offense came alive enough to move the ball 70 yards – the key play being a 38-yard pass from Drew Brees to Mark Campbell – and was punctuated by Bush leaping over cornerback Jacques Reeves for a touchdown.
Then, after holding the Texans to a field goal, the Saints put together their best drive of the night, a 72-yarder in 10 plays that ended with one-handed catch by Colston.
“They’re great athletes and it’s great to get them into position to make those kind of plays,” Brees said.
Brees was 5-of-7 on that touchdown drive and Deuce McAllister, who was getting his first action of the preseason since knee surgery last year, kept the drive alive with a short catch over the middle.
Back-up quarterback Mark Brunell directed the Saints on an 82-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes of the third quarter, hitting fullback Kevin Dudley on a 1-yard pass. The highlight of the drive was a 42-yard pass from Brunell to Lance Moore, who made a sliding over-the-shoulder catch.
But, alas, Saints back-up cornerback Tracy Porter was torched in the second half about as bad as David in the first. On the first drive of the second half, Texans back-up quarterback Sage Rosenfelds burned Porter for 13 and 20 yards, and for 43 on the next drive.