Osweiler, Texans topple Saints 16-9
HOUSTON - Brock Osweiler threw a touchdown pass and led the starting offense to three first-half scores in a 16-9 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Saturday night.
New Orleans had a chance to send the game to overtime with an untimed down from the 12-yard line, but third-string quarterback Garrett Grayson threw an interception to cornerback Robert Nelson in the end zone to end the game.
The Texans (2-0) shut out the Saints until late in the third quarter as both the first and second-team units handled New Orleans' porous pass protection and forced two turnovers.
After Osweiler and the starters struggled some in their preseason debut win over San Francisco, coach Bill O'Brien left most of the starters in for five drives.
Osweiler found rookie receiver Will Fuller for a 19-yard touchdown pass and frequently targeted the speedy pass-catcher as the Saints secondary turned heavy attention to DeAndre Hopkins, who was held to just an 8-yard catch.
With four Texans starters on the offensive line out, Houston's running game struggled for most of the game to get past the Saints' tough front. Nick Fairley had an active game for New Orleans (0-2), keeping starting running back Lamar Miller in check for just 16 yards on six carries.
The Texans were without left tackle Duane Brown - who has missed the offseason rehabbing a torn quad, but hopes to be ready for Week 1 - right guard Jeff Allen, who missed the game because of a death in the family, rookie center Nick Martin (high ankle sprain) and right tackle Derek Newton (strained hamstring).
The one Houston offensive line starter who played in the game - left guard Xavier Su'a-Filo - was beaten by Fairley, who sacked Osweiler.
For the most part, however, Houston's slew of backups on the line gave Osweiler and backup quarterback Tom Savage ample passing time, allowing just one sack.
New Orleans' pass protection, on the other hand, kept Drew Brees and backup quarterback Luke McCown on the run for much of the game. Brees was sacked by Jadeveon Clowney for a 14-yard loss in the second quarter. Houston's pressure came without J.J. Watt, who is still recovering from back surgery, but hopes to return near the start of the season.
With Saints receivers Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead sitting out the game for unspecified reasons, receiver Brandon Coleman received plenty of attention, drawing 10 targets, six catches and 47 yards. Running backs Mark Ingram (seven carries, 11 yards) and C.J. Spiller (one carry, 3 yards) had quiet games, but rarely found much running room.
Saints: WR Michael Thomas, a second-round pick, received scarce playing time in the first half, receiving just one target in limited snaps. FS Vonn Bell, another second-round pick, was active in the New Orleans secondary, making good reads and forcing players out of bounds. Bell is pushing for a starting job.
Texans: WR Will Fuller, the 21st overall pick, was a frequent target of both starter Brock Osweiler and backup Tom Savage. Fuller was targeted eight times in the first half, catching four passes for 73 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown.
Saints: Drew Brees was 5 for 8 for 29 yards and an interception. Backup Luke McCown was 12 of 16 for 101 yards.
Texans: Brock Osweiler was 12 of 19 for 124 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Backup Tom Savage was 7 of 12 for 75 yards.
Saints: Veteran DT C.J. Wilson had a sack in the fourth quarter on third-string QB Brandon Weeden as he pushes for a roster spot with the injury loss of Sheldon Rankins, who could miss the season. . Kai Forbath converted both of his field-goal attempts, from 33 and 37 yards, while Connor Barth converted his only attempt from 33 yards as they both push for the job.
Texans: K Nick Novak converted all three of his field-goal attempts, from 49, 46 and 36 yards, and hit his only extra-point attempt as he fends off competition from rookie Ka'imi Fairbairn.