Saints march 31-10

NEW ORLEANS-New Orleans played a stellar second half, scoring 24 unanswered points with two fourth-quarter turnovers that extended a lead too far out of reach for the Texans to grasp. With 68,390 fans anxious to see their team win for the first time this season, QB Aaron Brooks and receivers Donte Stallworth and Joe Horn were able to find their rhythm during the last 30 minutes, giving fans an aerial show at the Louisiana Superdome that finished in a 31-10 victory.

Running back Deuce McAllister led the Saints offensive charges late into the first quarter when he broke free on a 24-yard run to the end zone, giving New Orleans an early 7-0 lead.

Though their first drive didn't light up the scoreboard, QB David Carr hit WR Andre Johnson right out of the gate on quick route up the middle to set the offense up on the Houston 41. A few series later, P Chad Stanley trotted out to kick the ball away but the Texans special teams unit threw a little curveball as Jason Simmons fielded the snap and scampered seven yards on the fake punt, giving the Texans a first down.

Stanley came out to punt a short time later, but the Texans defense was able to contain the Saints to their own territory where they were forced to punt back to the Texans offense.

With stifling crowd noise at their back, the unit wasn't able to cross the mid-way point of the gridiron and the ping pong possession game continued as the Saints took over at their own 48.

McAllister came out on fire, carrying three times with one first down before breaking through the Texans defensive front into the open field to seal a seven-play, 52-yard drive with a 24-yard touchdown to give the Saints an early 7-0 lead.

While the Texans offense couldn't convert any of their possessions into points, the Houston defense was able to keep McAllister out of scoring range. Just into the beginning of the second quarter, DT Seth Payne was able to catch Brooks for a seven-yard clutch sack. In the process, Payne sustained a sprained left knee and was forced to leave the game. LB Kailee Wong ended the Saints march when he got a piece of Brooks next pass, forcing New Orleans to punt.

Carr took over, hitting Johnson for a 10-yarder down the sideline. The offense picked up an additional 15 yards after Saints FS Tebucky Jones hit Johnson on a late, out-of-bounds hit. Four plays later, Carr connected with WR Jabar Gaffney after throwing a bullet off of his back leg to put Houston at the New Orleans 11.

After picking up two yards, Stacey Mack put the offense inside the 10.

Carr hit Gaffney again and as he stretched out to cross goal line corner, lost control of the ball. The Texans were originally given the ball at the one yard-line, where officials ruled Gaffney had fumbled the ball. Saints head coach Jim Haslett threw the challenge flag and after reviewing the tape, the officials placed the ball on the two-yard line, where Gaffney had stepped out of bounds. The Texans found themselves in a fourth and one situation where Carr faked a handoff to Mack. Holding on to the ball, Carr rolled out and juked Saints S Jay Bellamy to dive into the end zone for the score. The thrilling seven-play drive ate up over three minutes of clock time and stretched 61 yards to tie the game at seven all.

The Texans defense was able to hold ground on three New Orleans possessions, putting the ball back into Carr's hands for one final scoring try as the clock ticked down under one minute. Key strikes to Johnson for 20 yards and then a huge 31-yarder to WR Corey Bradford set the squad up at the New Orleans 13. A sack and a penalty pushed Houston back to the 16 yard line where RB Domanick Davis was able to pick up an extra seven to shorten the distance for Kris Brown's field goal attempt. Brown split the uprights from 30 yards out to put the Texans ahead 10-7 at the half.

The Texans offense controlled the time of possession battle throughout the first half, holding on to the ball 16:27 to the Saints 13:33. During that span, Carr was able to pass for 129 yards while completing 10 of 18 attempts. Brooks finished one half of play completing 8 of 11 passes for 47 yards.

Both squads were slow with their grounds attacks with the Texans only accumulating 37 rushing yards to the Saints 33. Houston's defense was able to curb McAllister's threat, limiting him to just 28 rushing yards after 30 minutes of play, 24 which came from his touchdown jaunt.

The Saints came out of the locker room ready for action as Brooks marched the offense on an 83-yard touchdown drive within the first four minutes of second half play. McAllister chipped in three runs before Brooks sailed a 35-yard toss to Stallworth who hauled it into the end zone, giving the Saints a 14-10 lead early in the third.

The Texans weren't able to return the favor as Carr got the team to the New Orleans 49 but no further. A Carr to Davis strike notched a first down but Saints DT Jonathan Sullivan sacked Carr for an eight-yard loss. Carr found Johnson wide open up the middle on second and eighteen, where a first-down was in the bag, but Johnson bobbled the ball and Stanley came in for punting duty.

New Orleans came on strong, eager to find the end zone and cushion their lead. Brooks hit Horn for a 38-yarder and then found Stallworth down the sideline for an 11-yard catch to put the ball at the Houston 22. Offensive holding and delay of game penalties pushed the Saints offense back where Houston was able to limit them to a 39-yard field goal, extending the lead 17-10.

The Texans surrendered the ball back to New Orleans where Horn was able to haul in catches of 17 and 11 yards while McAllister helped to get the unit into the red zone after an electrifying 31-yard run. From two yards out, Brooks hit TE Ernie Conwell who was wide open in the end zone to take a 24-10 lead with nine minutes remaining in the game.

Houston tried to rally with minutes left on the game clock, but Saints CB Ashley Ambrose tipped Carr's intended pass to Bradford and the ball came down in the arms of LB Darin Smith. The Texans defense prevented the turnover from turning into points and the Saints were forced to punt.

But Mitch Berger's 39-yard punt was downed at the Houston three, putting 97 yards between Carr and a comeback touchdown. But once again, a turnover ended in disaster as Carr's intended pass for TE Billy Miller was knocked out of his hands by Ambrose. It was Ambrose's second clutch defensive play of the day as LB Derrick Rogers grabbed the loose ball and ran it back into the end zone, catapulting the Saints lead 31-10 and out Houston's reach.

On the ensuing kickoff, return man J.J. Moses set a new club record when he jumped over and dodged the New Orleans cover team for a 70-yard return. The long haul wasn't enough to give the Texans more points as the offense turned the ball back over to New Orleans at their own 40. The Saints defense let time wind down, sealing a 31-10 win, their first of the season.

Carr finished the day with 213 yards on 17 completions while the offense racked in 258 total yards. After throwing no interceptions and finishing sack-free last week against Miami, the Saints defense was able to pick Carr off twice and took him to the turf five times for 30 yards in loss.

Brooks ended with a 111.5 passer rating after completing 18 of 27 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns while the New Orleans offense netted 292 total yards.

Johnson led the Texans in receiving yards with 71 on the Saints side, McAllister added 68 rushing yards in the second half to lead New Orleans runners with 96 yards on the ground. Horn posted 111 yards against the Texans secondary.

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