There was no denying that fact that prior to Sunday's 34-0 road victory over New England, the New Orleans Saints had struggled in the red zone.
The Saints entered the game 4 for 12 on touchdowns scored from drives that reached opponents' 20-yard line in the first four games, before rectifying it big time against the Patriots. New Orleans was 3 of 4 in the red zone against New England, raising its season total to seven of 16.
The numbers would be more respectable absent a couple of kneel-downs in victory formation to end the games against Tennessee and New England. The Saints will attempt to add to the numbers Sunday, when they play the Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston.
What the Saints showed Sunday was a diversity of ways to reach the end zone: A 2-yard power run by running back Alvin Kamara to give him his franchise-leading 73rd career touchdown, a 5-yard pass across the back of the end zone from quarterback Derek Carr to receiver Chris Olave, and a 6-yard shovel pass from Carr to tight end Foster Moreau, who bounced off a couple of tackle attempts to score his first touchdown for his hometown team.
"It shows versatility that we can do it with," Carr said. "And like I've been saying, our message is now, Can we do it consistently? Let's just keep holding ourselves to that standard, let's just keep pushing ourselves to do that extra work, that film study.
"When you're tired at night, open up that book, stay in it. Because as soon as we blink we're going to be at the end of the season. We want to make sure we're where we want to be and we've got to stay consistent in our work and our process to do that."
FAMILIAR SURROUNDINGS: Carr will feel comfortable with the surroundings in Houston this weekend, because he practically grew up in the city. His older brother, David, was drafted by the Texans and played for the franchise from 2002-06.
"It's like going back home," Derek Carr said. "I've gone back to (Los Angeles), and sure, a lot of my family can come to those games, but I really grew up in Houston. So when people make fun of me for saying y'all and having a Southern accent – because I just figured that out when I moved to New Orleans – it's not the case.
"After fifth grade moved to Houston, was there for junior year in high school, then after my junior year I went back to California. My mom's whole side of the family – my grandma, my grandpa, aunts, uncles, cousins – everybody is from Texas. That's just the culture that I grew up in, so for me going back there is like a homecoming.
"I've already had high school friends text me, 'Can't wait to see you,' all those things. Because the only time I really get to go back is when we play there. So this will be only the second or third time I've been back since I moved after my junior year."
INJURY REPORT: The Saints had 13 players on Wednesday’s injury report. Notably, safety Marcus Maye returned to practice full, having served his league-issued, three-game suspension. Carr (right shoulder) and left guard Andrus Peat (concussion) also were full. Players who did not practice were tight end Juwan Johnson (calf), safeties Lonnie Johnson and J.T. Gray (both due to hamstrings), fullback Adam Prentice (knee) and tackle Landon Young (hip).