NEW ORLEANS – It was a case of too many field goals and not enough touchdowns for the Texans in Week 3 against the Saints at the Louisiana Superdome.
The Texans lost 40-33, dropping their record to 2-1, despite outgaining the Saints 473-454, winning the turnover battle and punting only twice. There were five lead changes in the game, and the Texans couldn't convert after getting the ball back with 2:42 remaining and a chance to tie.
"We had a chance to score more," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. "We had a lot of opportunities in the red zone. I look at the game, and I told the guys that if we would have played better in the red zone, we probably would get out of here with a win. If we would have played better defense late in the game, we get out of here (with a win). If we cover a little better, we get out of here (with a win)."
The Saints scored 23 points in the fourth quarter to overcome a 26-17 Texans lead. The Texans scored two touchdowns in the fourth but also had three drives that netted one yard or less.
"(The Saints) are a great football team," Kubiak said. "It's got to take a special effort. I thought our effort was tremendous. There were a lot of great things going on in the game, but when it mattered most in the end, they made the plays and we didn't. It's very disappointing because they left it out on the field, but that's part of this league."
Texans kicker Neil Rackers had four field goals, all from within 36 yards. Three of those came in the first half, when the Texans put up 301 yards but only 16 points.
Quarterback Matt Schaub threw for 373 yards and three touchdowns in a losing effort. The Saints' Drew Brees nearly matched him with 370 and three touchdowns of his own.
"We had more than enough chances in the red zone today, and when you do that, you've got to come away with sevens and not threes," Schaub said. "And when you're playing against a team like that, scoring down there even becomes more important. We just settled for too many field goals today."
The Texans scored on the opening drive of the game with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Schaub to Owen Daniels. Schaub had throws of 15 and 32 yards to wide receiver Andre Johnson on the drive.
After a three-and-out by the Saints on their first possession, Schaub completed a 62-yard pass to fullback James Casey on third-and-eight from the New Orleans 16. That led to a 22-yard field goal by Rackers that put the Texans up 10-0 with 3:43 left in the first quarter.
The Saints cut the lead to 10-7 with a 30-yard touchdown run by Darren Sproles to cap an eight-play, 86-yard scoring drive. Rackers put the Texans up 13-7 midway through the second quarter with a 27-yard field goal.
Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph picked off Brees at the Saints' 38-yard line on the first play of the next drive. The Texans picked up three more points off the turnover with another 27-yard field goal by Rackers.
Despite a sack by Texans rookie defensive end J.J. Watt on the ensuing drive, the Saints marched down the field for a 35-yard field goal with 35 seconds left in the first half. That put the Texans' lead at 16-10 at halftime.
The Saints took a 17-16 lead on the first drive of the second half with a two-yard touchdown pass from Brees to wide receiver Robert Meachem. The Texans responded with yet another short field goal by Rackers, a 36-yarder with 5:08 left in the third quarter.
Manning picked off Brees near midfield on the Saints' next drive. Four plays later, Casey made a diving touchdown catch on third-and-six from the New Orleans 26, and the Texans led 26-17 with 14:54 remaining.
A sack by defensive end Antonio Smith helped to stifle the Saints' the ensuing possession, but the Texans followed that with a three-and-out on offense. A 34-yard punt by rookie Brett Hartmann gave New Orleans the ball on Houston's 41-yard line. The Saints capitalized with a 27-yard touchdown catch by Graham, trimming the lead to two points at the 9:35 mark.
Schaub threw an interception on third down on the next drive, igniting the hostile Superdome crowd. The Saints then reclaimed the lead with a 16-yard touchdown catch by Lance Moore, who beat cornerback Kareem Jackson on the play. They tacked on a two-point conversion catch by Moore to go up 32-26.
The Texans reclaimed the lead with 4:13 remaining on a wild touchdown catch by Kevin Walter. Schaub passed to tight end Joel Dreessen on the play, and Dreessen got his hand on the ball before it was almost picked off by Saints linebacker Jonathan Casillas. The ball flew out of Casillas' hands and into the hands of Walter, who ran for a 20-yard touchdown.
The Saints went back on top with 2:42 left to play on a 13-yard touchdown run by rookie Mark Ingram. Another two-point conversion catch by Moore made the score 40-33. The touchdown was set up by a crucial 28-yard pass from Brees to Graham on third-and-10 from the Saints' 46. Manning was flagged for a personal foul penalty after the play, moving the ball all the way to the Houston 13-yard line.
The Texans got the ball back with two timeouts, but they were quickly backed up in a third-and-15 after an offensive pass interference penalty on Dreessen. Schaub was sacked on the next play at the Texans' nine-yard line at the two-minute warning. His last-gasp attempt for Johnson on fourth-and-21 fell incomplete, which all but ended the game.
Johnson finished with seven catches for 128 yards. Casey had a career-high five catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. Ben Tate, making his first-career start in place of the injured Arian Foster, had 19 carries for 82 yards.
"We knew that they are a great team, but we came into the game wanting to know where we are as a football team," Johnson said. "Everyone battled and left it all out there on the field. But we just didn't score seven points when we needed to score seven points. "