HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – After seeming to do no wrong in the first two preseason games, the Texans were dealt a dose of reality Saturday night when they came up against the New Orleans Saints.
The message that should have hit home during the 34-27 loss at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is nothing will be a given as the Texans attempt to duplicate their first playoff season and perhaps take it much further than the second round this season.
Facing an elite NFL team, the Texans committed three critical turnovers and the defense showed that it can still be susceptible to the pass as Drew Brees picked apart the secondary and took advantage of mismatches on tight end Jimmy Graham.
But the Texans did accomplish a few key things in their final tune-up with the starters as quarterback Matt Schaub & Co. showed they can still start fast and keep the pressure on. The Texans jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead before a couple turnovers allowed the Saints to climb back into the game.
But even then the Texans starters kept coming and played the Saints to a 24-24 halftime tie. Schaub looked sharp in his most extensive playing time since his season-ending foot injury last season, while third-year tight end Garrett Graham proved he is the answer as the Texans second tight end.
The Texans second team offensive unit, however, could not keep pace in the second half. They were outscored 10-3 in the final two quarters with backup quarterback T.J. Yates not looking comfortable.
Defensively, the first-team unit gave up 24 points but three short fields didn’t help their cause. Facing Brees also didn’t much, either.
All-and-all there was some good and bad to night as the Texans prepare to head into their final preseason game Thursday night.
Who Did Well: Third-year tight end Garrett Graham had a breakout game with four catches for 97 yards, which included three receptions for 77 yards from Matt Schaub. Garrett finished the night with three catches of 20 yards or more with receptions of 26, 44 and 20 yards.
Rookie first-round draft pick Whitney Mercilus continues to show promise as a pass rushing outside linebacker. He came up with a sack on Drew Brees and two hits on the quarterback while also recording one tackle for loss on the night.
Safety Glover Quin also was active in the secondary with a couple of pass deflections while also coming up to support the run defense.
Who Struggled: After weeks of near flawless play both return man Trindon Holliday and rookie receiver Keshawn Martin committed costly turnovers Saturday. Holliday, who had touchdown returns in each of the previous two preseason games, coughed up the ball on a kickoff return and it was promptly picked up and returned 16 yards for a touchdown by the Saints in the first quarter. He also had a muffed return but got the ball out of bounds to avoid the turnover. Holliday did redeem himself some with a 64-yard kickoff return.
Martin, who is competing for the third receiver spot, had two fumbles after the catch following his 10-yard touchdown reception early in the opening quarter.
Also, right tackle Rashad Butler had an inconsistent night which could give second-year Derek Newton the edge in their heated competition for the starting spot. No. 2 quarterback T.J. Yates struggled for the second straight game, completing 6 of 11 passes for 72 yards while being sacked five times.
Defensively, the Texans played their worst since the last time they played the Saints and Drew Brees last season. Brees and company scored 24 first-half points after the first team unit did not budge in the first two preseason games.
Standout Players: Quarterback Matt Schaub saw his most extensive playing time since suffering the season-ending foot injury last season and he was impressive Saturday night, completing 15 of 18 passes for 194 yards and one touchdown.
Injuries: Receiver Andre Johnson and center Chris Myers came out of Saturday’s game with some minor dings but biggest injury is to rookie kicker Randy Bullock. The Texas A&M product suffered a torn groin muscle and was placed on the injured reserve Sunday, thus handing over the kicking duties to veteran Shayne Graham.
The Cutdown: The Texans reduced their roster to the NFL-mandated 75 on Sunday as they move closer to the 53-man roster. Waived on Sunday were receiver Bryant Johnson, guard Kasey Studdard, punter Brett Hartmann, center Thomas Austin, fullback Derrell Smith, offensive tackle Nick Modek, nose tackle Sunny Harris, linebacker Greg Williams and running back Devin Meggett. Linebacker Darryl Sharpton was placed on the physically unable to perform list while Bullock was placed on the injured reserve list.
Interesting Stat: The Texans had the best one-two punch in the NFL last season, but it hasn’t kicked in so far in the preseason. Arian Foster and Ben Tate combined for 12 carries for 42 yards while averaging just 3.5 yards per carry in the first half Saturday night.
Who’s Up Next: The Texans are preparing for their final preseason game on Thursday night against Minnesota at Reliant Stadium. Most of the starters will be given the night off while Gary Kubiak and his staff take a look the reserves to see who stays and who goes. Look for this to be a big night for rookie free agent quarterback Case Keenum and veteran John Beck as they continue their battle for the No.3 spot.