The New Orleans Saints, coming off a strong performance on offense, defense and special teams in a 30-13 victory over the Chicago Bears will face the Houston Texans today at the Louisiana Superdome.
This will be New Orleans' final game in their home environment until October 23, as they will play Jacksonville, Carolina and Tampa Bay on the road the next three weeks. In their final home contest during that period they will look to continue their recent home success where they have posted an 18-7 record since 2008.
"Sunday was an important win for us," said Head Coach Sean Payton. "I thought our energy and our effort overcame some of the early mistakes we made and I thought as that game wore on we started really gaining the momentum and getting the pressure defensively and converting the third downs we needed to offensively. I thought we had good balance and made the big plays when we needed to. It was an important win. There's a lot we have to clean up and improve on, and we'll look to do that in our preparations for Houston. I was proud of the way they played and encouraged with the end result.
The Saints enter Sunday's contest following a rousing victory in their home opener. QB Drew Brees completed 26-of-37 passes for 270 yards with touchdown passes to WR Devery Henderson, WR Robert Meachem and RB Darren Sproles, posting a 118.1 passer rating.
The Saints signal-caller has gotten off to a sterling start in 2011, completing 58-of-86 throws (67.4%) for 689 yards with six touchdown passes, zero interceptions and a 114.9 passer rating. Brees is currently ranked first in the NFL in third down passer rating (157.7), third in overall passer rating and fourth in yardage and touchdown passes.
Henderson continued his blistering start to the campaign as one of Brees' favorite targets, making three receptions for a team-best 103 yards (34.3 avg.) with a 79-yard scoring pass from Brees that he came under perfectly in the second quarter to give New Orleans a 10-7 lead they would not relinquish.
"The most important thing for me was making the catch," said Henderson "As far as yards after, you make the catch first. Sean (Payton) did a good job of calling that play at the right time, with the defense and we took advantage of it."
For the first two weeks of the season, Henderson has nine receptions for a team-best 203 yards (22.6 avg.), reaching the century mark each game, with two touchdowns. The former LSU standout is ranked fifth in the NFL in receiving average, tied for fifth in scoring grabs and tenth in yardage. A vastly underrated piece of weaponry in Brees' arsenal, Henderson's 79-yard touchdown was his fifth reception of at least 75 yards since head coach Sean Payton came on board in 2006, tied for first in the NFL.
"Devery has been a guy that got off to a very good start for us beginning in training camp," said Payton. "He's experienced in our system and has bene at it for quite some time with us He is a guy that has played exceptionally well the first two weeks of the regular season."
In an outstanding defensive performance, New Orleans surrendered only 246 net yards, including only 60 on the ground from Chicago. The Bears managed to convert only 2-of-12 third down attempts (17%) The New Orleans defense sacked QB Jay Cutler seven times, the highest total by the club since 2002. DE Junior Galette and S Roman Harper each had two takedowns apiece. A sack also helped produce seven points when in the third quarter DE Turk McBride took down Cutler, forced him to lose the ball and it was picked up by LB Jonathan Vilma at the Bears 29-yad line. Five plays later, Brees found Meachem for a four-yard scoring pass.
Special teams also provided a big boost in the win for the Saints. K John Kasay, made three-of-three field goal attempts, including a second quarter 53-yard attempt. P Thomas Morstead booted five punts for a 46.6 net average as he and the Saints coverage units successfully bottled up Chicago return man Devin Hester to return only one punt for a four-yard loss on the day.
Even though the Texans are the NFL's newest franchise and New Orleans and Houston have met only twice in the regular season, the two clubs are very familiar with each other. From 2008-10, the teams would hold joint practices and then play an exhibition game each preseason.
Houston head coach Gary Kubiak's squad has enjoyed one of their best starts in franchise history at 2-0 in outscoring their first two opponents 57-20, as the Texans seek to reach the postseason for the first time in franchise history. Traditionally possessing an outstanding offense behind the trigger finger of QB Matt Schaub and precision of WR Andre Johnson, surprising second-year RB Ben Tate is ranked third in the NFL in rushing through the first two games with 47 carries for 219 yards (4.7 avg.) with one touchdown.
Another catalyst for the Houston's early success this season has been the performance of their defense. Buoyed by the addition of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and CB Jonathan Joseph, the Texans have surrendered only 20 points and are ranked first in the NFL giving up only 271.0 net yards per game. Especially suffocating in what shapes up to be a challenge for Brees and the Saints passing game is a stifling secondary, which has allowed only 162.5 yards per game to rank first in the league.
Last Sunday, the Texans forced two Miami turnovers while outgaining them 345-306 to defeat the Dolphins 23-13. Leading 6-3 at the start of the second quarter, Joseph picked off Dolphins QB Chad Henne at the Miami 11-yard line and returned it five yards. Two plays later, Schaub found TE Owen Daniels for a four-yard touchdown. The Texans signal-caller later sealed the victory with a 23-yard scoring pass to Johnson in the fourth quarter.
DATE: Sunday, Sept. 25
TIME: 12:00 (CT)
SITE: Louisiana Superdome
*The Saints and Texans have played only twice in the regular season, with each club winning their respective home contest.
*The two teams have played five times in the preseason with Houston holding a 3-2 edge, including a 27-13 Texans win at Reliant Stadium on August 20...With
a Saints win, the Texans would become the eighth franchise the Saints would have a winning mark against all-time.
The Saints are ranked fifth in the NFL in offense (17th rushing, fifth passing) and 12th on defense (seventh rushing, 18th passing)
Sunday's contest will be televised on CBS (WWL-4 in the New Orleans area) with Greg Gumbel handling play-by-play and Dan Dierdof serving
as color analyst.
The game can be heard throughout the Gulf Coast on the New Orleans Saints Radio Network (870 AM or 105.3 FM serve as the
flagship stations locally in the New Orleans area) with Jim Henderson handling play-by-play duties, former Saints fullback Hokie Gajan serving as
color analyst and Kristian Garic providing reports from the Saints sidelines...A Spanish language broadcast is available on WFNO 830 AM with
Emilio Peralta handling play-by-play duties and Marco Garcia serving as the color analyst.