Osweiler, Texans topple Saints 16-9
HOUSTON (AP) Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler is feeling a lot better about the offense he's running after putting it on display in front of the home crowd for the first time.
Osweiler threw a touchdown pass and led the starting offense to three first-half scores in a 16-9 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night.
New Orleans had a chance to send the game to overtime with an untimed down from the 12-yard line, but third-string quarterback Garrett Grayson threw an interception to cornerback Robert Nelson in the end zone to end the game.
The Texans (2-0) shut out the Saints until late in the third quarter as both the first and second-team units handled New Orleans' porous pass protection and forced two turnovers.
''Obviously, it's a frustrating game in some regards with how we played offensively,'' Saints coach Sean Payton said. ''I thought it was as bad as we've been in a while. Defensively, I thought there were some things that were encouraging.''
After Osweiler and the starters struggled some in their preseason debut win over San Francisco, coach Bill O'Brien left most of the starters in for five drives.
Osweiler found rookie receiver Will Fuller for a 19-yard touchdown pass and frequently targeted the speedy pass-catcher as the Saints secondary turned heavy attention to DeAndre Hopkins, who was held to just an 8-yard catch.
''I think we're just trying to lull defenses to sleep for the regular season and make people think we forgot about him,'' Osweiler said of Hopkins' lack of attention.
''As far as his targets in the preseason, that's just how it goes sometimes, but I can promise you that DeAndre is in our thoughts every single play.''
With four Texans starters on the offensive line out, Houston's running game struggled for most of the game to get past the Saints' tough front.
Nick Fairley had an active game for New Orleans (0-2), keeping starting running back Lamar Miller in check for just 16 yards on six carries.
The Texans were without left tackle Duane Brown - who has missed the offseason rehabbing a torn quad, but hopes to be ready for Week 1 - right guard Jeff Allen, who missed the game because of a death in the family, rookie center Nick Martin (high ankle sprain) and right tackle Derek Newton (strained hamstring).
The one Houston offensive line starter who played in the game - left guard Xavier Su'a-Filo - was beaten by Fairley, who sacked Osweiler.
For the most part, however, Houston's slew of backups on the line gave Osweiler and backup quarterback Tom Savage ample passing time, allowing just one sack.
New Orleans' pass protection, on the other hand, kept Drew Brees and backup quarterback Luke McCown on the run for much of the game. Brees was sacked by Jadeveon Clowney for a 14-yard loss in the second quarter. Houston's pressure came without J.J. Watt, who is still recovering from back surgery, but hopes to return near the start of the season.
''We need him - we need him back,'' Clowney said of Watt. ''He's doing his best to get healthy and get back out there for the team.''
With Saints receivers Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead sitting out the game for unspecified reasons, receiver Brandon Coleman received plenty of attention, drawing 10 targets, six catches and 47 yards. Running backs Mark Ingram (seven carries, 11 yards) and C.J. Spiller (one carry, 3 yards) had quiet games, but rarely found much running room.
''The good thing is I know we can fix all of those things,'' Brees said. ''The unfortunate thing is that it showed up in three consecutive possessions tonight. So we're not very happy about it.''
Saints: WR Michael Thomas, a second-round pick, received scarce playing time in the first half, receiving just one target in limited snaps. FS Vonn Bell, another second-round pick, was active in the New Orleans secondary, making good reads and forcing players out of bounds. Bell is pushing for a starting job.
Texans: WR Will Fuller, the 21st overall pick, was a frequent target of both starter Brock Osweiler and backup Tom Savage. Fuller was targeted eight times in the first half, catching four passes for 73 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown.
Saints: Drew Brees was 5 for 8 for 29 yards and an interception. Backup Luke McCown was 12 of 16 for 101 yards.
Texans: Brock Osweiler was 12 of 19 for 124 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Backup Tom Savage was 7 of 12 for 75 yards.
Saints: Veteran DT C.J. Wilson had a sack in the fourth quarter on third-string QB Brandon Weeden as he pushes for a roster spot with the injury loss of Sheldon Rankins, who could miss the season. ... Kai Forbath converted both of his field-goal attempts, from 33 and 37 yards, while Connor Barth converted his only attempt from 33 yards as they both push for the job.
Texans: K Nick Novak converted all three of his field-goal attempts, from 49, 46 and 36 yards, and hit his only extra-point attempt as he fends off competition from rookie Ka'imi Fairbairn.
Saints: In addition to WRs Cooks and Snead, DT John Jenkins, LB Stephone Anthony, FB Austin Johnson and TE Garrett Griffin were on the sideline and not in full pads, all with minor injuries. Saints coach Sean Payton reported no injuries suffered during the game.
Texans: K Nick Novak was slow to get up after a collision on the final kickoff of the game. A trainer met him halfway as he slowly walked off the field, but the injury did not appear serious. Texans coach Bill O'Brien reported no injuries suffered during the game.
Saints: ''When we put that tape on tomorrow, there weren't a lot of good things,'' Payton said.
Texans: ''This was his coming-out game, getting that first touchdown. He has definitely improved and it showed today,'' Hopkins on rookie WR Will Fuller.
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