There is really no other way to put this, so I'm going to be blunt. Preseason or not, the first-team Houston Texans offense and defense both looked strong in their 27-14 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
After playing second fiddle to the defense on Monday night, the first-team offense shook off the rust and moved the ball at will against the Saints. Houston never punted or had a turnover during their half of action. In fact, were it not for a missed Neil Rackers field goal towards the end of the second quarter, the Texans would've scored on every single first half drive.
Quarterback Matt Schaub went 12-for-16 for 163 yards with 100 of those yards going to Andre Johnson. Arian Foster capped off two drives with touchdowns, one coming on an impressive 28-yard untouched effort. Yet, somehow, even The Master of the Namaste was upstaged on Saturday night.
One of the main points of focus this past week has been second-year running back Ben Tate and his inability to practice or play due to injury. After last Monday's performance, Chris Ogbonnaya had picked up supporters in his effort to supplant Tate on the roster. Tate made quick work of that competition with 95 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. The numbers are impressive, but the beauty was in how effortless Tate made it look. He showed great vision to see his running lanes, but Tate's acceleration through the hole and power to break tackles really set him apart. The spotlight was on Tate, and he delivered.
While the defense allowed some long pass plays and runs, the first-team defense held the Saints in check by only allowing them a single touchdown. Antonio Smith came up with a key sack and strip on Drew Brees with New Orleans threatening in the red zone on their first drive. After Brees was pulled, the second-team defense immediately allowed a 56-yard touchdown pass, but that was it for the Saints back-up squad. Brice McCain intercepted a pass and rookie Brooks Reed had two sacks and two forced fumbles as the Texans pitched a shutout in the second half.
There are still some things to correct, like the terrible return performances and missed defensive assignments, but Houston came off a short week ready to play. Tonight's game was about as sharp as I can remember a Texans team being in the preseason. Hopefully, the first-team will continue to play at a high level next weekend as they're expected to play three quarters against the San Francisco 49ers in their final real tune-up before their regular season opener.
Check out Battle Red Blog for more reaction on Houston's performance against the Saints.