Reflections on the New Orleans Saints – Houston Texans Game

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Predictably, sportswriters have already written off Houston.  They’ve interpreted the loss against the New Orleans Saints to be an indication that these are the same old Texans:  they can score a lot of points but are incapable of stopping the opposing offense, closing out a good team, or winning an important road game.

I disagree.  Sunday’s game showed us that the Texans are a good team, but were not quite good enough on this day to beat an experienced, championship-caliber, Drew Brees-led, Sean Payton-coached team at one of the league’s most difficult road venues.

Houston dominated the first half and outplayed the Saints until Brees put together one of the best fourth-quarter passing stretches of his career.

This game appeared to pit two pretty evenly matched teams against each other.  In the end, the dome advantage and some Drew Brees wizardry squeaked out a victory that was in doubt for the first 57 minutes of the game.

It seems a bit of an extreme reaction to label this a typical Houston collapse or a sign that they are not ready to compete with the league’s better teams.

Their offense is loaded and as good as ever, and their defense is markedly improved.  I expect the Texans to win at least 10 games and to be a legitimate threat to win the AFC.

Now on to some other thoughts from the game.

First, I hope we never have to see those throwback uniforms again; they were from the Saints’ 1967 season and that’s where they should stay — in the 60’s.

It’s already been said, but Darren Sproles has been amazing so far.  In fact, you could argue he has been the Saints’ second-most valuable player through three games (behind Brees).

Every time he touches the ball, whether on a return, a run or a reception, Saints fans not only hope for but expect to see a big play.  With Colston and Moore missing time, Sproles really has helped keep the offense rolling.

I sure do like Pierre Thomas.  He’s not all that fast or explosive, but he’s smart, consistent and reliable.  He seemed to gain 6 to 10 yards or get a first down on every run of critical possessions Sunday.

The Saints’ defense did give up a lot of big plays yesterday, but in their defense, they were outstanding in the red zone.  The Texans did not choke, the Saints’ D just stepped it up near the goal line.

Also, the Texans’ last touchdown–the most bizarre play of the year so far–was obviously a fluke.  It was nearly intercepted, and then ricocheted twice to land in Kevin Walter’s lap.

Then there was the third-down touchdown pass to Texans TE James Casey; Jonathan Casillas actually had good coverage–as he did when he broke up a similar ball later–but the ball was thrown perfectly and Casey made a great catch.

And finally, there’s Andre Johnson.  The man’s a beast.  He has to be the best all-around receiver in the NFL.  I know some fans wonder how teams continue to leave someone so talented so wide open (this happens against other defenses, not just the Saints).

It’s not necessarily a matter of blown coverage; he is just so fast, big, strong and smart that corners know they will get owned if they try to blanket him too closely.  I was more disappointed at how the Texans tight ends routinely beat the Saints linebackers and secondary.