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Texans beat Saints 31-27


Kevin Walter has 100 receiving yards.



NEW ORLEANS - With an early regular season schedule that features three of the NFL's top-10 scoring teams from a year ago, the Texans are counting on their offense to hit the ground running.

So far this preseason, the offense has responded.

On Saturday night at the Louisiana Superdome, the Texans went toe-to-toe with one of the NFC's top offenses and outscored the New Orleans Saints 31-27 in front of a paid attendance of 70,009. The Texans have scored in each quarter this preseason.

Behind 405 total net yards of offense, the Texans scored on five of their nine possessions, picked up 21 first downs and finished 10-of-14 on third down. Veteran Matt Turk punted only twice the entire game. The other two non-scoring drives ended at halftime and the end of the game.

The most encouraging news was the play of quarterback Matt Schaub, who was flawless in completing 14-of-16 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Kevin Walter was his favorite target with a game-high six catches for 100 yards and a touchdown.

Overall, Schaub, Sage Rosenfels and Alex Brink combined for a 141.5 passer rating with no interceptions.

"They were exceptional, all three of them," coach Gary Kubiak said. "I was just looking at these numbers and I think they were 21-of-25 – played extremely well. Even the young kid handled himself good at the end of the game, picked up a good third down. But I think (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach) Kyle (Shanahan) is doing a good job with them, and they played extremely well today."

The flip side to the win is that the Texans' defense was victimized for three touchdowns and 244 net passing yards. The promising news, though, is that the unit hung tough with 3:09 left in the game by preventing the Saints' offense from mounting a final, game-winning drive. Instead, the Texans forced an errant pass on fourth-and-19 from the New Orleans 17.

{QUOTE}The Saints scored first when Martin Gramatica kicked a 25-yard field goal to put the Saints ahead with 11:44 left in the first quarter. Wide receiver Jacoby Jones' fumble on a punt return set up the score. It's his second fumbled punt this preseason. Later in the game, he was involved in a fumbled handoff exchange with Brink.

"It's a problem right now," Kubiak said. "We are trying to push the kid through it. We tried to get him another ball there to end the game on a reverse - from a confidence standpoint, try to get him a chance to make a play. But he's struggling right now. He's got a lot of ability. He can help us win, but we've got to get the issues fixed. I don't think it's a lack of effort on anybody's part. We've got to regain this kid's confidence somehow, and we'll keep working through that."

The Texans' offense was hot off the bat thanks to Schaub's accuracy. He completed throws to wide receiver André Davis for 14 yards and Walter for 17 yards before reconnecting with Walter on a 26-yard touchdown pass that helped put Houston ahead 7-3 with 5:30 left in the first quarter.

Wide receiver David Patten's 39-yard catch down the Texans' sideline set up the Saints' next scoring opportunity. On third-and-10 at the Houston 15, quarterback Drew Brees' pass to tight end Mark Campbell was broken up by safety C.C. Brown. Gramatica's 33-yard field goal cut the Texans' lead to 7-6 with 2:50 left in the first quarter.

Schaub continued his strong start with consecutive completions to Davis and tight end Owen Daniels for 28 total yards to move the offense to the New Orleans 44. Schaub's completions to Walter for 27 yards and Davis for 11 yards gave Houston a first down at the eight-yard line, where fullback Vonta Leach caught a seven-yard pass in the flat. Schaub found Leach again the next play for a one-yard touchdown pass to finish the 10-play, 74-yard series.

Running back Reggie Bush scored the Saints' first touchdown on a 12-yard reception where he leapfrogged cornerback Jacques Reeves at the goal line.

The back-and-forth offensive showcase continued when Schaub hit Walter for a 20-yard gain before Daniels raced 21 yards past one defender to enter Saints' territory. Kris Brown's 45-yard field goal gave the Texans a 17-13 lead with 5:36 left before halftime.

After Reeves was flagged for an 18-yard pass interference penalty on wide receiver Devery Henderson, the Saints moved into scoring range again inside the two-minute warning. Wide receiver Marques Colston's five-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone made the score 20-17 at halftime.

Starting the third quarter, Rosenfels quickly found his groove by completing passes to wide receiver Mark Simmons and Jones for 33 total yards. Rookie running back Steve Slaton's 12-yard rush helped pave the way for Chris Taylor to rush in for a one-yard touchdown dive.

With 2:17 left in the third quarter, Saints backup quarterback Mark Brunell found wideout Lance Moore open for a 42-yard completion. Two plays later, Brunell's touchdown pass to fullback Kevin Dudley helped the Saints regain the lead, 27-24.

The high scoring continued when wide receiver David Anderson made a sliding catch, picked himself up to avoid a defender and then gained a few extra yards before being dragged down from behind for a 43-yard gain. Slaton finished the drive with a darting 10-yard touchdown run off the right tackle for the game's final points.

Kubiak had high praise for Slaton, who had a game-high 57 rushing yards on 13 carries (4.4 avg.). He added a catch for three yards and two kickoff returns for 45 yards.

"When he's out there, you can feel his speed and the chance to make big plays and the kickoff return," Kubiak said. "He's growing in what we are doing run-game wise. He makes some bad cuts, but then he makes some great cuts. It's obvious that this kid's going to be a big part of (our team) if he keeps heading the way he's heading. I wanted to see him a bunch tonight."

Next up for the Texans (2-0) is a nationally televised (CBS) showdown at Texas Stadium with the Dallas Cowboys this Friday night.

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