**Houston –** The New Orleans Saints produced their highest point total in the team's 38-14 win over the Texans since a preseason victory over the Cleveland Browns (40-27) at Tulane Stadium on August 24, 1968. The Saints, who trailed early 7-0, thumped the Texans with stout defense and big plays offensively, courtesy of all three of the team's units both offensively and defensively. The Saints racked up 421 yards of total offense and also scored via a 79-yard punt return.
Saints RB Mike Bell, locked in a battle for a coveted roster spot, came out flying with a 100-yard first half against the Texans, including a 46 yard touchdown run that put the Saints ahead 14-7 with less than four minutes to go in the first half. CB Jabari Greer then turned the tables on the Texans and returned a Dan Orlovsky interception 23 yards, which set up a 10-play, 52 yard drive in 1:49 without the benefit of any timeouts and capitalized on a Garrett Hartley 22-yard field goal to take a 17-7 halftime lead.
Houston scored first in the second half, cutting the Saints' lead to 17-14 on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Orlovsky to WR André Davis, but they would be the last points the host team would manage all night. Saints wide receiver Rod Harper continued his impressive play this training camp with a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown midway through the third quarter that reestablished the Saints' 10 points lead (24-14). Rookie RB Herb Donaldson capped a 99-yard drive in 13 plays midway through the fourth quarter to widen the Saints' lead to 31-14, but the Saints then went 63 yards in four plays, sparked by a 47-yard reception between Mark Brunell and WR Adrian Arrington that set up a PJ Hill one-yard touchdown run that made the score 38-14.
"There were some encouraging things that we did tonight," said Saints Head Coach Sean Payton. "We ran the ball well and played our most physical game to date. We need to still clean some things up, especially the penalties.
"Mike Bell did a good job," Payton said. 'He ran hard and our offensive line did a good job. I was pleased with what he did."
Drew Brees, who played the team's first two series, was crisp, hitting nine-of-14 passes for 87 yards in two drives at the helm, and Marques Colston had six receptions for 68 yards, but it was Bell and the Saints' running game that had people talking. The Saints averaged an impressive 8.6 yards per carry in the first half on 14 carries (120 yards), compared to 3.5 yards per carry for the Texans. New Orleans outpaced the home squad in total yards, as well, 268 to 156.
The Texans took possession of the opening kickoff of the game and began at their own 27. The home team fashioned an impressive opening drive, marching 73 yards in 10 plays that gobbled 6:05 off the clock. On the drive QB Matt Schaub was five-of-six passing for 54 yards and found pay-dirt on a third-and-three from the eight yard line when he found slot receiver David Anderson on an inside slip screen that put the Texans up 7-0. The Saints had the Texans stopped on a third-and-three near midfield after CB Jabari Greer blanketed intended receiver Andre Johnson. The Texans, though, would go for it on fourth down, and appeared to have the Texans stopped but Saints DE Will Smith was flagged for a 15-yard penalty for illegal hands to the helmet and the Texans were awarded the first down.
New Orleans' first possession began at their own 30 and promptly got to work on the ground game, as RB Mike Bell churned out runs of seven and two yards and converted a third-and-one with a four yard hard inside run. QB Drew Brees then hit the running back out of Arizona with a five-yard completion and continued to work on the Texans through the air when he hit WR Devery Henderson on a slant that picked up 14 yards to the Houston 38. RB Pierre Thomas then picked up six yards on a sweep to the left on a first down and Brees connected on a 17-yard gain to WR Robert Meachem. Brees then hit WR Marques Colston for a gain of seven yards to the Houston nine. On second down, Brees dropped back to pass but was snared by DE Mario Williams, but Brees threw the ball away and after a review the Texans lost a previously credited sack of five yards and the Saints were faced with a third-and-three from the nine. Brees coolly dropped back and found a wide-open Thomas at the goal line for the game-tying score with 3:31 left in the quarter following Garrett Hartley's extra point. On the drive Brees completed five-of-six passes for 52 yards, with all five of the receptions being spread around to different receivers.
On the Texans' second drive RB Steve Slaton picked up a total of 11 yards on the first two runs. S Roman Harper and Smith pressured Schaub into an incompletion of a first down from the Houston 35. CB Tracy Porter, who didn't play in preseason game one with a hamstring injury, poked the football free from WR Andre Johnson, but a Texans' offensive lineman recovered the loose ball, thus resulting in a third-and-eight. Schaub found his go-to man, Johnson, on third down for a 12-yard completion, but the Saints' defense buckled down and following a key second down pass defensed by Anthony Hargrove and a third down stop after a short completion to Slaton, the Texans punted, with the football sailing into the end zone and the Saints taking over at their own 20 with 13:58 left in the first half.
QB Dan Orlovsky came in for the Texans and began the drive with a handoff to RB Chris Brown. Orlovsky hit Anderson for a gain of eight yards and a first down, despite very nearly being intercepted by Roman Harper. Orlovsky hit reserve TE Joel Dreessen for a 21-yard gain to the Saints' 36 as the clock hit the two-minute warning for the first half. The 21-yard gain was the Texans' longest completion of the night to that point and left the Texans with two timeouts. Orlovsky was pressured into throwing an ill-advised pass by Bobby McCray's inside pressure and Greer intercepted the pass and returned it 23 yards to the Texans' 44.
Harrington hit Colston for a gain of 17 yards to the Houston 39, although the officials elected to review the play to see if Colston had both feet inbounds before being pushed out of bounds. After the review the ruling on the field stood and the Saints came right back with a nine yard completion between Harrington and Thomas. Thomas then picked up four yards on a draw, then Harrington hit Meachem for 12 yards to the 15. Harrington neatly picked up a crossing Colston for a nine-yard gain and a first down at the four and then spiked the ball with :26 left. Harrington hit Buck Ortega,but he couldn't get out-of-bounds and the Saints were forced to stop the clock with a spike. Hartley came on to boot home a 22-yard field goal with :02 left that upped the Saints' lead to 17-7.
The Saints took possession of the opening kickoff of the second half but the series ended quickly when Harrington was sacked on third down. Rookie punter Thomas Morstead uncorked a towering 45-punt punt that was fair caught by the Texans in their own territory. Houston, with Orlovsky still at quarterback, started their first drive of the second half at their own 45 and marched 55 yards in seven plays, which concluded with 23-yard touchdown pass from Orlovsky to WR Andre Davis.
The Saints turned in another big play when first year man Rod Harper, who had an impressive debut last week in the team's win over the Bengals, fielded a punt at the Saints' 21 and made three men miss and criss-crossed across the field for a 79-yard punt return. Harper elected to high-step the final five yards into the end zone and was hit with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that was assessed on the ensuing kickoff. The score at the time of the punt return was 24-14 in favor of the Saints.
Houston, trailing by 10, rallied with a drive that began at their own 33 and used a mix of runs and passes to move into Saints' territory.On a third-and-five from the Saints' 18, Orlovsky rolled to his left and fired a dart for a first down to fourth-year WR Glenn Martinez for a seven yard gain and a first down. The Texans faced a fourth-and-one from the Saints' two when reserve OLB Anthony Waters shot through a hole in the line of scrimmage and sacked and stripped Orlovsky of the ball, resulting in a 16-yard sack and two yard return.
On the Saints' next defensive stand, CB Randall Gay perfectly broke up a third-down pass near midfield that forced a Texans punt.
The Saints were pinned down at their own one yard line following Matt Turk's punt, but Harrington alertly scrambled on at hird-and-eight for the first down. He was injured however when a diving Texans linebacker hit Harrington in the neck after he gained the first down and was sliding. Mark Brunell came in to relieve Harrington and left up where Harrington left off by continuing to move the team. Rookie RB Herb Donaldson picked up a first down rushing on a second-and-one with an inside run to the Saints' 40. On a first down,Brunell scrambled and was hit with a late hit by DT DelJuan Robinson for a15-yard penalty. Brunell then hit WR Adrian Arrington for a 24-yard gain to the 21. Rookie RB Garrett Hartley/P,-d-,J,-d-, Hill.aspx">P.J. Hill then hit the hole for a 15-yard gain to the Texans' six. Two plays later Donaldson scampered off right tackle but the Saints were flagged for a holding call on G Garrett Hartley/Nate Bennett.aspx">Nate Bennett that cost them 10 yards. But Donaldson came right back with a 14-yard touchdown run on the next play that extended the Saints' lead to 31-14 following Hartley's extra point.
Brunell stayed in at quarterback with Harrington nursing a mild concussion and promptly went deep with a 47-yard completion to Arrington to the Texans' two. Two plays later Hill slammed over the left side of the linefor another Saints touchdown and extra point, making the score 38-14 with 4:05 left in the game.
Houston scrabbled together a late drive, but Randall Gay thwarted the drive with an interception at the Saints' seven yard line with :24 left in the game.