by Philip Cantin
Cold Hard Football Facts Saints beat writer
Today marks the 5-year anniversary of the re-opening of the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina - the year when Drew Brees, in his first season with the New Orleans Saints, handily defeated their NFC South rival Atlanta Falcons 23-3. In this game of similar remembrance against the Texans, Drew Brees and his Black and Gold comrades, once again, did not fail to disappoint. Though the offense started slower than your grandfather's ancient lawnmower that's been collecting dust in the garage, they came alive in the second quarter to erase a 10-0 deficit and cut the lead to 16-10 at halftime. Then, after falling behind 26-17 early in the fourth quarter, Their offensive fireworks were on full display en route to a thrilling 40-33 home win that included an amazing fourth-quarter comeback.
Here are five things that we learned about the Saints and Texans after today's game:
1. The Texans' new-look defense was exposed.
We mentioned before that there was a strong possibility that the Texans defense had not yet been tested
. They stood their ground against Kerry Collins and the Colts, as well as Chad Henne and the Dolphins. But could they withstand the firepower of Drew Brees and his offense?
Well, at least they held them to 40 points.
Although he had trouble early on, Drew Brees eventually got in a rhythm and ended up passing for 370 yards, 3 TDs, and completed 70.45% of his passes. Also, New Orleans was very successful on third down, which we predicted to be a crucial factor in this game
; the Saints converted 8 of 13 third downs (61%), which was significantly more than the 23.81% average conversion rate the Texans allowed coming into the game. What was most impressive, however, was the success rate the Saints had in the red zone. Entering Week 3, the Texans only allowed 2 touchdowns in 7 red zone trips, an allowed efficiency rate of 28.6%. But against the Saints, they allowed 3 touchdowns in 5 red zone trips, a substantially higher efficiency rate of 60%!
The new 3-4 defense of the Texans did play very physical, sacking Drew Brees twice and forcing him into his first two interceptions of the season. But despite this, they allowed too many points to give their offense enough breathing room.
Speaking of points allowed...
2. The Saints defense was a brick wall in the red zone.
Do you like a good, stiff cup of coffee in the morning when it's Monday morning and you're trying to recover from a long night of clubbing?
Then you'll love drinking up the Saints defense inside the 20-yard line.
Unlike their dome counterparts that allowed 60% of Saints red zone drives to be converted into touchdowns, the Saints only gave up one touchdown in five red zone trips, a meager conversion rate of just 20%. To get a better of idea just how stiff this defense was, consider the fact that Matt Schaub, since his red zone TD pass to Owen Daniels early in the first quarter, he was just 1 of 6 since within striking distance, passing for just four yards!
like to have their joe that strong?
3. Any player can be a running back in Houston's backfield, not just running backs.
Ben Tate had another formidable game filling in for injured Pro Bowl RB Arian Foster, rushing for 82 yards on 19 carries, a 4.32 average run per carry. But there were a couple of occasions in the game when players not named Ben Tate or Steve Slaton thought they were the ball carrier. On the Texans' first drive, facing a crucial 3rd-and-14, Matt Schaub lateraled to Andre Johnson in the backfield, who ran for 15 yards (17 yards after the catch) and a big first down which jump-started the Texans offense. And in the third quarter, on a 2nd-and-10 play, tight end James Casey ran for 11 yards and a first down.
Not too shabby when you have an offensive line that's the middle of the pack (22nd in the Offensive Hog Index
4. Lance Moore is back - and as dangerous as ever.
After a groin injury during preseason that caused him to miss the season opener against the Packers, WR Lance Moore returned to action during the Bears, catching one pass for 6 yards.
This week, he returned in a much more spectacular fashion.
While Jimmy Graham led the team in receiving yards (grabbing four balls for 100 yards and a score), Lance Moore led the team in receptions, catching 9 of Drew Brees' 31 completions for 88 yards and a touchdown. Five of his receptions were for first downs, and two of them were part of separate two-point conversions which were crucial to the Saints keeping their newly-earned lead over the Texans.
All in a day's work for one of Drew Brees' favorite targets.
5. The Saints throwback jerseys were an eye-pleasing "lagniappe" along with the win.
For those not familiar with the New Orleans term, "lagniappe" simply means "something extra." And that's exactly what the Saints fans received when they laid their eyes on black and gold throwback jerseys from 1967, a year before the birth of the franchise. An old-school Saints logo on the helmet and gold-colored pants certainly bring fond (or perhaps painful) memories of the early years of the Black and Gold.
So where were the Texans' throwback jerseys? Oh wait...they're not quite old enough yet.