At the end of the night, the Texans were happy they pulled out a win. It was, in a preseason context, exhilarating to see the squad pull out a victory in crunch time.
But the players and staff also know that these preseason games are for learning about the team and making corrections going forward.
The evening began with a couple of fruitless offensive possessions sandwiched around an Andy Dalton-led TD drive that put Houston in a 7-0 hole.
Davis Mills exited after a three-for-three night which hardly quenched anyone's thirst for seeing the first team offense get clicking. The first three first down plays went in the wrong direction. Had Mills and some of his weapons stayed in longer they might have been able to get into rhythm but that will have to wait.
After the first of three Texans takeaways, a Tremon Smith pick, the Texans notched a field goal. After the second, an Ian Book fumble recovered by newcomer and Alief Taylor product Obo Okoronkwo, Houston went on a 47-yard drive, capped with a Jeff Driskel to Jalen Camp TD for the lead.
The fact that the takeaway train got rolling tonight was a great sign, continuing the ethic that Lovie Smith brought to the defense last year.
In the midst of the second quarter fun was the emergence of Damion Pierce, who brought a mega-boost to the ground game with five carries for 49 yards. His performance was an encouraging development for a team looking to build a punishing running attack under Offensive Coordinator Pep Hamilton. You had the feeling that the Pierce runs gave the whole team a lift.
Jalen Pitre also flashed, as the rookies showed they belonged. It's just the beginning but it was a good start and gave everyone an appetite to see the next steps in their inaugural campaign.
It was a tight game throughout. The Saints had some good drives but the Texans D kept the contest close. Then, Driskel put together a 90-yard drive that ended with a third down TD pass to rookie Johnnie Johnson for the win.
When the final gun sounded, Houston put up five sacks, three takeaways and averaged over four yards per carry. The last stat is notable and needed for a squad that averaged 3.4 yards per carry last season, with none of the backs hitting the four-yard mark.
There's much to improve. The offense needs to start better. The defense, despite the takeaways, gave up more than they wanted to on the ground. The penalties went into double figures, with 11. But this was just chapter one.
Next up is a trip to L.A. to play the Rams. They won't play starters but no one in Deep Steel Blue is concerned about the opponent. The focus is on getting better and getting as game-ready as possible for the Colts on September 11.