The Texans kicked off their 2022 preseason with a thrilling 17-13 comeback victory over the Saints at NRG Stadium on Saturday night.
"Anytime you keep score, you want to win, kind of simple as that, but there is a lot more we'd like to get accomplished in these preseason games," Head Coach Lovie Smith said.
Smith's debut as Texans head coach resulted in three takeaways (one interception, two fumble recoveries) for his defense, an explosive performance by rookie running back Dameon Pierce, and a touchdown drive in the final minute of action.
"Dameon Pierce definitely caught my eye and everybody's eye that was watching him," Smith said. "That's what we've seen in training camp also. He's a good football player."
Davis Mills started the game at quarterback but exited after two series, completing all three passes he threw for 14 yards. Backup quarterback Jeff Driskel completed 16-of-26 passes for 165 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Driskel's second touchdown pass, was a 6-yarder to wide receiver Johnny Johnson, III with just 25 seconds remaining to give Houston the late win.
Resting veterans who did not see action in the preseason opener included Laremy Tunsil, Justin Britt, Brandin Cooks, Maliek Collins, Jerry Hughes and Christian Kirksey.
"As you can see, we kept out quite a few of our players," Smith said. "By design, we wanted to see some of the other players in some of the situation that we got."
Rookies who played included Pierce, defensive back Jalen Pitre and linebacker Thomas Booker IV. Pierce led the team with 49 rushing yards on five carries in the first half, including one for a 20-yard gain in the second quarter.
After Driskel's pass was picked off with 1:52 left in the first half, the Saints added a 23-yard field goal to tie the score 10-all going into the intermission.
Trailing 13-10 with just over two minutes remaining, Driskel orchestrated a seven-play, 90-yard scoring drive, converting four first downs. After a 49-yard completion to Camp, Driskel found Johnson for a 19-yard reception. Three plays later, Driskel connected with Johnson on a six-yard touchdown pass to give Houston a 17-13 lead and the preseason win.
The Texans will next travel to Los Angeles to play the Rams in their second preseason game on Friday at 9 p.m. CT.
Pitre recorded four tackles and a tackle for loss. Booker logged his first career NFL sack along with 2 tackles.
QB Andy Dalton threw a nine-yard touchdown pass to RB Dwayne Washington on the opening drive to give the Saints an early 7-0 lead. Houston's defense forced a takeaway on the next two possessions. Tremon Smith had an interception and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo recovered a fumble on backup QB Ian Book. The Texans converted the two turnovers into 10-7 lead in the second quarter. Driskel's four-yard touchdown pass to WR Jalen Camp capped off a five-play, 47-yard scoring drive.