The third preseason game is the final tune up for your starters before the games count. The Texans were playing some sweet music on defense at times but the offense was off key in a shutout loss against the Saints.
Tom Savage went 10 for 16, playing once again without four of his would-be top pass catchers including DeAndre Hopkins and C.J. Fiedorowicz. Savage had his moments but he'll be the first to tell you the offense failed to get the job done.
Deshaun Watson went 11 of 21 with a deflected pick. He flashed as well but no one on offense had a highlight reel moment.
The defense took the field with J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Whitney Mercilus. Add Brian Cushing, Benardrick McKinney, Johnathan Joseph, Kevin Johnson and Kareem Jackson to the mix and you start to think about the damage this group can do. They allowed a first down then forced a punt.
Then, one by one, some of the stars left the game. By the end of his night, Drew Brees had led the Saints on a field goal drive and nothing else. Those were the only points on the board until Chase Daniel loosened up and engineered an 84-yard drive in the third quarter for the only touchdown of the night.
Special teams coverage units looked better. And perhaps the feel-good story on a rough night was just-signed Jordan Todman providing a pop on kickoff returns and showing fresh legs in the backfield despite learning the offense on the fly.
Now it's time to bubble wrap the starters. It's crucial to get back as many of the regular offensive contributors on the field as possible. Playing at home should help the cause as Savage and the offense try to get something positive going early.
There's one more piece of business with the final preseason game. The 'last house on the left' game, as I have often called it. The Texans will have a final look at a bunch of players who will audition for job in Houston or elsewhere. It's a great chance to evaluate some immediate or future prospects. And to be entertained if not inspired by men fighting for their careers. For many, it's their last game ever.
With the preseason winding down it's hard to imagine the Texans not winning with a similar format they've utilized in the first three years under Bill O'Brien. They'll play great defense and aim to do enough on offense to tip the scales and pull out close games. There are bigger performances waiting but until they get all, or at least most, of their best players back, it's going to be tough to generate break-out production.