Texans-Saints running game blog

From the press box - 10:13 p.m.
Running back P.J. Hill scored on a one-yard touchdown run with 4:05 remaining, putting the Saints up 38-14. Hill's touchdown was set up by Mark Brunell's 47-yard pass to Adrian Arrington that moved the Saints to the one-yard line. On the play before Brunell's big pass, a sack by Tim Jamison and John Busing was negated by a personal foul on cornerback David Pittman.

Tackle Cliff Washburn's injury has been classified as a strained left calf. He is out for the game.

I'm heading down to the field to prepare for postgame coverage, so this concludes my in-game blog. Visit Texans TV after the game to check out the live streaming video of all Texans press conferences.

From the press box - 10:04 p.m.The Saints scored on a 14-yard touchdown run by sixth-string running back Herb Donaldson, putting them up 31-14 with 7:41 left and sending many fans to the exit aisles.

It's been a sloppy game all around. The Texans and Saints have combined for 19 penalties (nine by the Texans) for 158 yards. Before Donaldson's score, he had a four-yard touchdown run negated by a holding penalty. He ran back into the end zone untouched on the very next play.

From the press box - 10:00 p.m.In an unprecedented move in the Reliant Stadium press box, Texans VP of communications Tony Wyllie has opened the large press box windows separating the room from the rest of the stadium. The move was made earlier in the second half to bring in some warm air to the front row of reporters. It's brought in a lot of crowd noise, along with some heat, to the room. I never even knew the windows could open.

Here's a photo - hard to make out, but you can see the glass line just below the "T" in Texans in the end zone.

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From the press box - 9:50 p.m.Special teams play of the day for the Texans - Matt Turk nailed a 60-yard punt that went out of bounds at the one-yard line with 13:06 left in the game. The punt came right after Turk booted a 43-yard punt that would have pinned the Saints on their eight-yard line, a play that was erased by an illegal formation penalty.* *

From the press box - 9:41 p.m.
A Texans drive that got all the way to the Saints' one-yard line ended in ugly fashion near the end of the third quarter. First, Moats was stuffed on a run up the middle on third-and-one from the two-yard line. The Texans then went for it on fourth down, calling a naked bootleg with Orlovsky. When Orlovsky turned around to roll out left, he was immediately met by unblocked Saints linebacker Anthony Waters. Waters tangled with Orlovsky as Orlovsky ran backward; he eventually pried the ball loose and recovered it at the 18-yard line. The play left Texans fans shaking their heads in disbelief.

From the press box - 9:29 p.m.Paid attendance for the game was just announced at 70,107. Not bad for Week 2 of the preseason.

From the press box - 9:27 p.m.Moats is back in the game; his injury obviously wasn't serious. Jacoby Jones returned the Saints' kickoff past midfield, but receiver Mike Jones was flagged for holding and the Texans started their drive at their own 33. Several plays into the drive, Jones was flagged for illegal motion on first-and-10 from the 23. It negated an eight-yard catch by Davis.

The Texans have now been penalized seven times for 50 yards today, and the Saints have been even worse with seven penalties for 68 yards.

From the press box - 9:20 p.m.The Saints now lead 24-14 after a 79-yard punt return touchdown by receiver Rod Harper. Harper was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for showboating during the return as he strutted into the end zone. The 15-yard penalty will be enforced on the kickoff.

The big return spoiled what has been a stout defensive effort by the Texans in the second half. The second-team defense has forced two three-and-outs through two Saints possessions in the third quarter. Barwin's sack forced the first punt, and pressures by Tim Bulman and Jesse Nading on the Saints' second drive led to the other punt.

Running back Ryan Moats left the field with an undisclosed injury on the Texans' left drive. He was injured during a four-yard run off the left tackle during which he was tackled by Randall Gay and Mark Mitchell. He ran off the field under his own power; no word yet on his injury.

From the press box - 9:07 p.m.Great throw-and-catch from Orlovsky to Andre Davis for a 23-yard touchdown. The Texans now trail 17-14 with 9:25 to play in the third.

Davis got a step on Saints rookie cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, and he made an over-the-shoulder catch in the front right corner of the end zone on Orlovsky's pass. It was Orlovsky's first touchdown pass in a Texans uniform. He completed three passes for 42 yards on the drive, including an 18-yard strike to Jacoby Jones.

From the press box - 8:58 p.m.Rookie defensive end Connor Barwin recorded his second sack of the preseason early in the second half. Barwin beat Saints guard Anthony Davis and dropped Joey Harrington for a five-yard loss on third-and-seven from the New Orleans 24. He sacked Chiefs quarterback Brodie Croyle in the second quarter last week in the Texans' preseason opener.

Barwin is in only his second as a defensive end, having played tight end for his first three years at Cincinnati. He's still got a lot to learn in the way of technique on the defensive line, but his speed and natural athletic ability have already made him a force to be reckoned with so far in the preseason.

From the press box - 8:50 p.m.Halftime by the numbers:17-7: The score, in favor of the Saints
268-156: Total yards for both teams, in favor of the Saints
15:02-14:58:Time of possession for both teams, in favor of the Texans
105.5: Passer rating for quarterback Matt Schaub, who went 11-of-16 for 97 yards and a touchdown
78.3: Schaub's completion percentage through action in two preseason games
73: Yards on the Texans' game-opening touchdown drive
8: Yards on wide receiver David Anderson's touchdown catch that ended the drive
30: Rushing yards for Steve Slaton, on six carries
38: Receiving yards for Andre Johnson, on four catches
1: Bone-jarring hit from linebacker Xavier Adibi, which prevented a Saints touchdown late in the half

From the press box - 8:44 p.m.
The halftime show was a performance by the Texans Cheerleaders along with about 300 women and men from Jazzercise of Houston. It's highly entertaining, and the crowd gave a rousing ovation to the group upon completion of their 10-minute routine. The group raised approximately $21,000 in charitable contributions.

From the press box - 8:39 p.m.The first half has ended with the Texans trailing 17-7. The Saints tacked on a 22-yard field goal with :05 left in the half, capping a 52-yard, 10-play drive that took only 1:49. Deltha O'Neal and Nick Ferguson stopped Saints tight end Buck Ortega at the five-yard line to help keep New Orleans out of the end zone.

"Halftime by the numbers" coming up shortly.
From the press box - 8:32 p.m.Orlovsky's first drive as a Texan at Reliant Stadium ended with an interception. His deep pass to Jacoby Jones down the right sideline that was intercepted by Jabari Greer at the New Orleans 21-yard line. Before that, Orlovsky completed his first two passes for 29 yards. He was 9-of-20 last week at Kansas City without any turnovers.

The Texans' second-team defense is on the field now as the Saints try to extend their lead before the half. Joey Harrington has replaced Brees at quarterback.

From the press box - 8:25 p.m.The Texans now trail 14-7 thanks to an increasingly impressive performance by Saints running back Mike Bell. He burst through the middle with 3:33 left in the half on his way to a 46-yard touchdown, giving him 100 yards on 10 carries for the day. Bell suffered a hamstring injury when he signed with the Texans last preseason, contributing to his short-lived stay in Houston.

After the Saints' score, quarterback Dan Orlovsky came in for Schaub with 3:15 left in the half. The Texans' first-team offensive line is still in the game.

From the press box - 8:15 p.m.Score one for Frank Bush's defense, with an assist from the Reliant Stadium crowd. The Saints' offense has been moving the ball almost at will against the Texans, but they just made a big stand in the red zone. The Saints had third-and-goal from the four-yard line, and raucous crowd noise contributed to a false start that pushed the Saints back to the nine. On the next play, linebacker Xavier Adibi leveled Saints receiver Devery Henderson a couple of yards from the end zone, knocking the ball loose from his hands as he fell to the field. You could hear the "oohs" from Pearland after that crushing hit.

The Saints then made a 27-yard field goal, but it was nullified by an illegal formation penalty that pushed the Saints back five more yards. Saints kicker Garrett Hartley missed on the next attempt, keeping the score tied at 7-7.

Running back Mike Bell sure looks a lot better now that he's on the Saints. Bell has nine carries for 5 4 yards, most of them coming on tough runs straight up the middle. Bell was on the Texans' roster for a brief period last year but didn't stick in Houston.

From the press box - 8:00 p.m.The Texans fired back at the machine known as the Saints' offense with some pressure from their front four. On first-and-10 from the Houston 41-yard line, Williams fought through what looked like a serious hold to get a pressure on Brees that forced an incomplete deep pass. Amobi Okoye broke through the middle of the line and almost sacked Brees on the next play, forcing another incompletion. On third down, the Texans moved end Antonio Smith inside to tackle and put Connor Barwin at left end to play with Okoye and Wiliams on the line. Brees completed a 10-yard pass for a first down on the play, though.

From the press box - 7:56 p.m.The Saints' offense continues to move the ball at will. Brees and Colston have connected for a total of 18 yards on the last two plays combined, and the Saints have a first down just past midfield.

The Texans' second drive stalled at the New Orleans 44-yard line after they drove 42 yards on 10 plays. The team was hurt by a holding penalty on Duane Brown that negated a nice gain by tight end Owen Daniels.

From the press box - 7:53 p.m.Inactives note: cornerback Antwaun Molden did not suit up this week, and it doesn't look like linebacker Chaun Thompson is in uniform, either. Molden (foot/ankle) was activated from the PUP list this week and practiced for the first time in nine months. Thompson (hamstring) was declared "iffy" by Kubiak late in the week, but apparently he is not healthy enough to play.

From the press box - 7:49 p.m.Some numbers from the first quarter, with the score tied 7-7:

Schaub: 9-of-11, 78 yards, 1 TD, 125.6 rating. Slaton: six carries for 30 yards, long of nine.

Johnson leads all players with four catches for 38 yards. André Davis has averaged only 18.5 yards on his two kickoff returns, as it looks like the Texans are still trying to find their footing with the new two-man wedge rule on special teams.

From the press box - 7:36 p.m.The infamous Tuck Rule just bit the Texans in the butt, big time. Not only did the officials rule after review that the Saints would keep possession, they took away Williams' sack, saying that Brees had begun a throwing motion before being taken down to the ground - or something along those lines; the rule really bothers me/makes my brain want to explode.

On the next play, nobody covered Saints running back Pierre Thomas coming out of the backfield and Brees found him wide open in the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown pass.

The 70-yard scoring drive covered 10 plays and 5:26 of game clock. Not a good series for the Texans' first-team defense, but the Saints did have the best offense in the league last year. Brees, who threw for 5,000-plus yards in 2008, has matched Schaub throw-for-throw so far with a stat line of 5-of-6 for 52 yards.

From the press box - 7:31 p.m.First challenge of the season. Mario Williams sacked Drew Brees at the 14-yard line, which was made possible after Brees had to double-clutch because of initial pressure from Antonio Smith. The ball came loose and Smith pounced on it, but the officials ruled that Brees was down before the ball came out.

Texans coach Gary Kubiak challenged the ruling, much to the delight of the home crowd. We'll see what the ruling is in a minute.From the press box - 7:28 p.m.The Saints' high-powered offense is marching down the field right now. I'll have a recap of their first drive when it's done, but they've already gotten inside the red zone after only eight plays.

Two notes: rookie Glover Quin started instead of Brice McCain, and defensive tackle Frank Okam got the start in place of DelJuan Robinson. Okam impressed Gary Kubiak and Bill Kollar last week at Kansas City. He's getting a big opportunity this week.

From the press box - 7:25 p.m.Touchdown, Texans. On third-and-four from the eight-yard line, Matt Schaub executed a play-action rollout pass to perfection, finding a wide-open David Andreson in the middle of the field. Anderson ran it in about five yards for the score and punctuated the touchdown with a Russian folk dance-esque move.

It was a 10-play, 73-yard scoring drive that took 6:05 off the clock. Schaub was 5-of-6 for 50 yards, completing passes to four different receivers: Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Joel Dreessen and Anderson. Running back Steve Slaton had four carries for 18 yards, including a nine-yard gain inside the red zone during which he ran up the middle and carried three Saints defenders for his last few yards.

So far, so good for the Texans' first-team offense. They scored on an impressive 94-yard touchdown drive at Kansas City last week.

From the press box - 7:08 p.m.The Texans won the toss and will receive. It's time for some football.

The Texans are honoring local service men and women during the game today. Melissa Saldivar of the Houston Police Department sang the national anthem.

From the press box - 7:02 p.m.The Saints were welcomed to Reliant Stadium by a loud chorus of boos from the Texans' faithful. The fans are here and ready for some football. The stadium looks about two-thirds full, but there are few open seats in the lowest seating section of the stadium.

From the press box - 6:56 p.m.The 2009 Houston Texans Cheerleaders are on the field performing. They look more high-energy this year - fans are going to like the new routines that cheerleader programs manager Alto Gary has put together.

The Bull Pen Pep Band is now playing "Texas, Our Texas" while members of a local youth flag football league hold a giant Texas flag on the East end of the field at the 50-yard line.

From the press box - 6:48 p.m.In case you're wondering, here's what's for dinner in the press box (along with a rudimentary photo taken from my phone):

Southern fried chicken
Peppered steaks with sweet onions and peppers
Garlic mashed potatoes
Green beans
Tossed salad
Peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream

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From the press box - 6:25 p.m.The NFL has a new policy this year that requires all teams to have their players on the field during the national anthem. This will be a change for the Texans, who previously kept their players in the locker room until after completion of the anthem. Personally, I think it's a good change.

The Texans will introduce their offensive players before the game today. The Saints will introduce their offense as well.

Forty minutes and counting 'til kickoff...

From the press box - 5:46 p.m.Here are the inactives for today's game, hot off the press:

Texans inactives
35 CB Jacques Reeves
50 LB Cato June
55 C Chris Myers
56 LB Brian Cushing
69 G Chester Pitts
99 DT Travis Johnson

Starting lineup changes
Kasey Studdard will start at left guard for Pitts. Chris White will start at center for Myers. Brice McCain will start at left cornerback for Reeves.

Saints inactives
16 WR Lance Moore
25 RB Reggie Bush
31 CB Pierson Prioleau
37 S Chip Vaughn
70 T Jammal Brown
80 TE Darnell Dinkins
83 TE Billy Miller
84 WR D'Juan Woods
94 DE Charles Grant

Starting lineup changes
Pierre Thomas will start at running back for Bush. Jermon Bushrod will start at left tackle for Brown. Paul Spicer will start at left defensive end for Grant.

Thoughts
No surprises for the Texans, but that's a lot of star power missing for the Saints with the likes of Bush, Brown (their starting left tackle) and Grant (one of their best pass rushers) set to watch from the sidelines. We also won't get to see Miller, who scored the first touchdown in Texans history against the Dallas Cowboys on this field in 2002.

From the press box- 5:30 p.m.
We're 90 minutes away from kickoff in the Texans' 2009 home preseason opener at Reliant Stadium against the New Orleans Saints. It promises to be a physical game after a joint practice on Thursday that was marked by several brawls, and the Saints' high-powered offense will be a big test for the Texans' young defense. I spoke with defensive coordinator Frank Bush before coming up to the press box, and he said he's looking forward to the challenge of matching up with Saints coach Sean Payton, whom Bush called one of the best play callers in the league.

Here's a photo from my vantagepoint in the press box:

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