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Texans - Saints postgame notebook


Houston's defense did not allow any second half points and wideout Andre Johnson returned for 120 yards receiving and a touchdown to help the Texans defeat the New Orleans Saints 23-10 on Sunday.

'Dre's stage: With a packed Reliant Stadium chanting his name, wide receiver Andre Johnson returned to the starting lineup Sunday and then went on to steal the show.

"It was fun when I ran out of the tunnel and heard the fans cheering for me," Johnson said.

The Pro Bowler, who sat out the last seven games with a knee sprain, picked up where he left off with quarterback Matt Schaub. Early in the first quarter, Johnson blew by New Orleans cornerback Jason David for a 73-yard touchdown pass.

"They were in quarters coverage, both the safety and cornerback bit on the run fake," Johnson said. "When I saw the safety run down, I knew it was a touchdown."

When the wideout entered the end zone, he pointed to the crowd and then jumped in the stands for congratulations from the fans. Johnson saved the touchdown ball and said from now on he would start keeping each touchdown ball he catches.

"I want to start saving my touchdown balls," Johnson said. "It's just something I want to do. I see a lot of other guys do it too, and I decided that I'm going to start saving mine."

The five-year veteran finished the game with six catches for 120 yards. It was Johnson's fourth touchdown of the season. He is currently averaging 6.6 catches and 127.3 yards per game.

"He's a playmaker, and he's one of the leaders on our football team," Schaub said. "He's been doing good things for this league for a number of years. He lifts the level of play and the explosiveness of our offense."

Spreading the weatlth:Johnson's return allowed Schaub to take advantage of New Orleans' struggling pass defense. With little pressure coming his way, Schaub was able to get the ball to a slew of targets and exploit the Saints' marginal zone coverage.

"We were able to get them on some play fakes and get Owen (Daniels) behind them on some crossing patterns," Schaub said.

Tight end Owen Daniels used those patterns to come up big on crucial downs, notching five receptions for 74 yards. Daniels briefly left the game during the first quarter when a high hit by cornerback Mike McKenzie broke the tight end's nose and forced a fumble, but Daniels returned to action after Dr. Richard Stasney reset his nose.

"I started feeling a little better when we were walking back out there and I was just trying to get my bearings and remember what was going on," Daniels said. "After that I was fine to go back in."

Daniels' toughness did not go unnoticed.

"O.D. is a tough son-of-a-gun," tight end Joel Dreessen said. "He got his nose shattered, he's all plugged up, and he goes back out there. I admire the heck out of him."

Dreessen caught his second touchdown pass of the season when Schaub hit him with a 10-yard pass as time expired in the second quarter.

"It felt like the ball was in the air forever, but I was definitely thankful to get it, thankful to help my team get the lead at that point in the game," Dreessen said. "It was huge."

Schaub, who completed 21 of 33 passes for 293 yards, connected with wideout André Davis on two catches for 30 yards. Wide receiver Kevin Walter also turned in another steady performance, grabbing three catches for 31 yards.

The Ron Dayne train: The Texans did not have many options at running back with starter Ahman Green sidelined with a sore knee. Luckily, the team only needed one back: Ron Dayne.

"We have a lot of confidence in him," head coach Gary Kubiak said. "He makes plays for our team, and there at the end of the game he really took the game on his shoulders and ran the ball well."

{QUOTE}The 1999 Heisman Trophy winner ran for 89 yards on 21 carries and caught 3 passes for 26 yards. Dayne later credited his performance to a Texans' offensive line that battled to create holes.

"The line, they kept pounding on them the whole game, and that's all we can ask from the line," Dayne said. "They played a great game."

Dayne admitted that it felt good to outrun the other Heisman Trophy winner on the field, New Orleans' Reggie Bush, who had 15 carries for 34 yards.

"I wish I would have scored, because I would've done the Heisman," Dayne said. "But it was just good to be able to help the team win."

Dayne also reached a career milestone in the game, topping 1,000 rushing yards as a Texan.

"I'm happy and just out there having fun," Dayne said. "I'm glad the line is playing well. The whole team is playing well, so as long as we keep doing that, no telling where we can go."

"D" earns an "A": Early in the season, the Texans defense said they wanted to be identified as a physical unit that causes turnovers. They seemed to have found themselves against New Orleans who had three fumbles and two interceptions.

"Guys stepped up, guys came out and we played hard and we played physical," said cornerback Von Hutchins. "We executed the gameplan to a 'T.' The D-line is where the credit goes. Those guys came out, they rushed, they stopped the run, they came out of the stack and they were physical. It starts up front."

The biggest man upfront from defensive end Mario Williams. Williams sacked Brees and knocked the ball loose for his first career forced fumble and a 10-yard loss. It looked like the Texans recovered, but officials ruled the Saints had possession. It was Williams' fifth sack of the season, besting his rookie total of 4.5.

"Mario, he stepped up and made some huge plays for us," linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "He had one of his best games, I think, and that's huge for him."

Defensive end Earl Cochran had a huge forced a fumble when he hit Bush at the 1-yard line and the Texans recovered.

The defensive backs and safeties elevated their play with star cornerback Dunta Robinson out for the season.

Early in the second quarter when Hutchins intercepted a pass tipped by tight end Eric Johnson. Linebacker Morlon Greenwood also intercepted a pass intended for Johnson. Late in the fourth quarter, rookie Fred Bennett knocked down a pass intended for wideout David Patten, which allowed the Texans' offense to take the field and eat up the clock.

"I think our secondary realized all week that they (New Orleans) were talking about us all week, with a bunch of new faces," Bennett said. "I thought that we just went out there and put it on our shoulders and said, 'Hey, we're not going to be the weakest link.' Today, I think we went out there and did a great job."

Williams on point: Williams kept the pressure on Saints' quarterback Drew Brees with several quarterback hurries. Williams also sacked Brees, had a forced fumble and finished with six tackles.

To read more about Williams' performance, **click here**.

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