Takeaways helped propel the Texans to a 17-13 victory over the Saints in their preseason opener.
Houston's defense came up with a pair of interceptions and a fumble recovery on Saturday night at NRG Stadium, and the Texans offense was able to score after two of the three takeaways. Tied for 10th in the NFL in takeaways in 2021, the Texans continued to get the ball back for their offense against New Orleans.
"That's what we preach, and the guys buy into it," Head Coach Lovie Smith said.
On the Saints' second possession, an Ian Book pass sailed high, was tipped by his tight end Juwan Johnson, and gathered in by Texans defensive back Tremon Smith. He weaved his way forward for 12 yards, and gave the Houston offense a 1st-and-10 at the New Orleans' 34-yard line. A few plays later, Ka'imi Fairbairn's 49-yard field goal pulled the Texans to within 7-3, with 1:20 remaining in the opening quarter.
Linebacker Blake Cashman, who broke up a pass, notched a tackle for loss, and tied for the team lead with seven tackles, said the defense was energized on Saturday night.
"We were all fired up," Cashman said. "I think everyone felt like the defense was flying around, having a good game, and was being aggressive towards the ball."
The next takeaway for Houston came on the next New Orleans possession. Defensive lineman Ogbo Okoronkwo pounced on a Book fumbled snap, and the Texans were in business with a 1st-and-10 at the Saints 47-yard line.
The final takeaway, though, came with New Orleans on top 13-10, looking to go up by 10 points with just over five minutes left in regulation. On 2nd-and-goal at the Houston 5-yard line, linebacker Tae Davis popped the ball loose from Abram Smith at Houston's 2-yard line. Defensive back Fabian Moreau recovered for the Texans. Smith was a fan of what he saw on that play.
"He punched the ball out," Smith said. "It's not like an offensive player just fumbled it. So guys need to see that and to see setting the offense up in a favorable position. All these things, of course, a lot of them on video that we can teach from."
Cashman, who joined the team via trade this offseason, explained one of the main thrusts of Smith's philosophy, and how it proved to be fruitful for Houston on Saturday night.
"That was a big emphasis in Training Camp: being aggressive on breaking on routes," Cashman said. "Get PBU's (pass breakups) or interceptions, or if you're making a tackle, throw a haymaker there or a Mayweather punch as we call it, and get the ball to create turnovers."
The Texans will practice again on Tuesday and Wednesday, before heading to Los Angeles for Friday night's preseason game against the Rams.