Texans take preseason win over Saints
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Brian Hoyer sounded pleased about his first game as the Houston Texans' designated starter.
Ryan Mallett, meanwhile, looked determined not to let his disappointment linger over his relegation to a backup role.
Hoyer led scoring drives on two of his three series on Sunday, and the Texans went on to a 27-13 preseason victory over the inconsistent and undisciplined New Orleans Saints.
"It's good to come out and start the game and move the ball like we did," Hoyer said. "That means what we are doing is moving the team in the right direction."
All three Houston quarterbacks led scoring drives. Mallett threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jaelen Strong, and afterward downplayed the anger he'd expressed at the initial news that Hoyer was named the starter over him.
"There was nothing to put behind me," Mallett said. "I felt like we went out there and executed our game plan and we moved the football and scored some points on them."
Houston's third-string quarterback, Tom Savage hit rookie Chandler Worthy for a 6-yard score in the fourth quarter.
Hoyer finished 7 of 11 for 82 yards. Mallett was 9 of 17 for 77 yards, and Savage finished 5 of 7 for 58 yards.
Houston took the lead for good on its first offensive series, capped by former LSU running back Alfred Blue's 1-yard run. The score was set up by a pass-interference call on cornerback Keenan Lewis, who was trying to prevent DeAndre Hopkins from hauling in Hoyer's pass in the end zone. Hopkins had already beaten Lewis for a 29-yard catch on the drive.
The Saints (0-3) outgained the Texans (2-1), 393 yards to 292 yards, with New Orleans reserve running back Edwin Baker scoring on a 45-yard run.
But New Orleans' first two trips inside Houston's 20 produced only 3 points. The Saints also committed 11 penalties for 148 yards.
Saints coach Sean Payton didn't hide his annoyance at the penalties and cracked sarcastically that his defensive lineman should put on a New Orleans-style second-line parade to celebrate their first sack of the preseason, which came in the second half when rookies Tavaris Barnes and Tyeler Davison brought down Savage.
"Penalties, obviously, jump out, right? The pass rush. Those are things that stand out," Payton said while discussing areas of concern.
But Payton was happy with seventh-round draft choice Marcus Murphy, stating, "He's making this team." Murphy had 110 yards from scrimmage and would have had a long punt return if not for an illegal block by Jerry Franklin that Payton referred to as "dumb football."
Observations from the game:
RED ZONE FRUSTRATION
Drew Brees marched the Saints 75 yards for a field goal on his lone series, completing his first four passes for 40 yards before his last two fell incomplete inside the 20.
Josh McCown spent much of the day at quarterback for New Orleans, going 8 of 14 for 117 yards. But his fourth-down pass from the Houston 2, intended for Josh Morgan, was batted down by rookie cornerback Kevin Johnson.
Strong, a rookie out of Arizona State, wound up as Houston's leading receiver for the game with five catches for 40 yards.
Willie Snead, a second-year pro out of Ball State, was among the top receivers for New Orleans, with four-catches for 56 yards, including a 23-yard gain that included an effective spin move to avoid a tackler.
Saints kicker Zach Hocker connected on field goal attempts from 28 and 53 yards in the first half. The former Arkansas kick is competing for a roster spot with Dustin Hopkins, who played for Florida State. Neither have attempted a field goal in a regular season game. Hopkins did not get a field goal try against Houston. Both entered the game having made two of three field goal attempts, with each of their misses coming from beyond 50 yards.
"It's close," Payton said of the kicking competition. "You're hoping there's an easy separation and there hasn't been."
Saints second-year reserve strong safety Vinnie Sunseri, who's final season at Alabama was wiped out by a knee injury, was helped off the field and then carted to the locker room after an apparent leg injury on punt coverage. The Saints did not update his condition. Houston linebacker Carlos Thompson left the game with a concussion and Texans tight end Anthony Denham went out with a shoulder injury.
The starting lineups likely won't be the same when the Saints visit the Texans for a regular season game on Nov. 29. The Texans decided to rest defensive end J.J. Watt and nose tackle Vince Wilfork. The Saints rested strong safety Kenny Vaccaro and cornerback Brandon Browner.