The Houston Texans five-game preseason winning streak came to an end on Sunday with a 31-23 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Despite nine starters not dressing, the Texans set several preseason records at Reliant Stadium.
The Texans compiled a franchise record 496 yards of total offense, eclipsing 400 yards for the third consecutive game. Houston also set a franchise single-game preseason record with 355 net passing yards. Quarterback Matt Schaub ended the day with 213 yards, the most passing yards by a Texans player in a preseason game, surpassing David Carr's previous record of 205, set on August 23, 2003 against San Diego.
Andre Johnson led the Texans receiving core with seven catches for 131 yards. Johnson's performance was the second 100-yard receiving effort of his career in the preseason. Ben Tate, who ran for 74 yards and a touchdown, had a 39-yard scamper on Houston's second drive that was the team's longest of the preseason.
The Texans third preseason appearance should have been the closest approximation to a regular season game with the starters playing close to a half of football. Schaub along with Owen Daniels, Andre Johnson, and the starting offensive line all remained in the game for the first half. The defensive line was without both Antonio Smith and J.J. Watt, who donned a baseball cap on the sidelines for the Texans third preseason game. Tim Jamison and Jared Crick started on either side of nose tackle Earl Mitchell.
"I played with them the entire time I've been here so I know what they are capable of," Mitchell said of Jamison and Crick. "So, they're great players and you know whover is in there, it really doesn't make a difference because you're gonna get a lot of production from both of them."
Crick started for Watt and recorded his first sack of the preseason in Watt-like fashion, wearing an elbow brace and dropping quarterback Drew Brees for a 6-yard loss in the first quarter. The defense shut down Brees and the Saints in the first quarter, allowing just 28 total yards on offense. The Texans put up 164 yards of total offense in the first quarter alone, scoring first with a one-yard run by Ben Tate.
Brees found his rhythm in the second quarter. The NFL's 2012 leading passer finished 4-of-6 for 104 yards and a touchdown, a 51-yard toss to running back Pierre Thomas.
"I felt like we executed the plan coming in as far as how much we wanted guys to play," Brees said after the game. "Although we did not score every time we touched the ball, which is always our goal, I feel like we did get some good things done, certainly something we can look at on film tomorrow and make corrections and be ready to move on."
Luke McCown replaced Brees and marched the offense down the field for two consecutive scores, first setting up a 51-yard field goal and then a 14-yard touchdown to wide receiver Kenny Stills.
The Saints extended their lead to 24-16 with another Luke McCown touchdown just 52 seconds into the the second half. Wide receiver Andy Tanner made an 11-yard catch for a touchdown on the second play of the drive. Tanner repeated his performance on the very next drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Griffin, the rookie quarterback from Tulane University.
T.J. Yates and Case Keenum split time in the second half, with each playing a quarter.
Yates was second off the bench and went 7-for-9 on the day with 73 yards and one touchdown. Wide receiver Alec Lemon, the rookie from Syracuse, caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Yates with 1:12 remaining in the third quarter.
Case Keenum entered the game with 10:53 remaining in the fourth quarter, with the Saints leading 31-23. Keenum was unable to get the third-team offense in scoring range, ending the Texans' final offensive drive on a 4th-and-6 incompletion to Alec Lemon.
"You know, it wasn't my best," Keenum said of Sunday's performance. "We put ourselves in a chance to win the ballgame there, and I missed a few throws. Missed one really important throw down there on fourth down."
Second-year kicker Randy Bullock's range was put to the test, which he passed with flying colors. Bullock kicked his way to a 3-for-3 finish in the game with 48, 55, and 21-yard field goals. Bullock improves to 6-of-7 on field goal attempts this preseason.
The Texans, who drop to 2-1, will travel to Dallas on Thursday to face the Cowboys in their final preseason game.