September 14, 2003
Saints March Over Texans
by Bob Hulsey
For a half, Texan fans could fantasize about their first two-game winning streak. But New Orleans’ muscle took over in the final 30 minutes, dominating both lines to kill Houston’s hopes, 31-10.
David Carr was brutalized by a Saints front four that overwhelmed the Texan offensive wall in the second half on their way to five sacks and a number of hurries. The defensive line, missing veterans Gary Walker and Seth Payne most of the game, held firm but eventually allowed 96 yards on the ground to Deuce McAllister.
There was no doubt Houston was playing to win, opting to fake a punt on the game’s opening drive. While Jason Simmons made the first down easily, the Texans wound up having to punt, then squandered the field position on a pair of penalties when New Orleans punted the ball back.
The Saints broke on the scoreboard first when McAllister capped off a 52-yard drive with a 24-yard jaunt, unmolested off right tackle.
Houston’s offense did not awaken until the second quarter when Carr chose to air it out. Two Saint penalties helped the drive move downfield. Then 20 seconds of action took 20 minutes to officiate.
Carr hit Jabar Gaffney, who fumbled while trying to stretch for the flag in the right front corner of the end zone. It might have been a touchdown. It might have been a touchback. After reviewing the play, the officials ruled Gaffney had stepped out at the two-yard-line, short both of a first down and a touchdown.
Dom Capers went for it on 4th-and-1 and it looked like a monumental mistake when Carr faked a handoff and backpedaled as if to start a naked bootleg, only to find a couple of Saints in his way. That’s when Carr used a fake that made Jay Bellamy look like Ralph Bellamy. It gave him just enough of a crease to lunge for the goal line.
Another review (and a dumb one since, even if New Orleans had won their challenge, the Texans would have still had four tries from the one yard line). Carr’s knee hit just as the ball crossed the plane for the score. It was the first Red Zone six-pointer for Houston in five tries this year. The drive chewed up 61 yards to tie the score at 7.
The Texans broke the tie just before halftime on a 30-yard field goal by Kris Brown, set up when Carr winged one to a diving Corey Bradford on third down for a 31-yard gain to the Saints’ 13-yard-line.
Donte’ Stallworth vanished in the first half and it went unnoticed by the Houston secondary until he snared a 35-yard touchdown pass in stride from Aaron Brooks as New Orleans scored on their first possession of the second half to take a 14-10 lead. They upped the score to 17-10 when they ended the third quarter on a 39-yard field goal by John Carney.
It got ugly in the final stanza as the Saints asserted their physical dominance. Joe Horn, who had 10 catches for 111 yards, made two receptions around a 31-yard McAllister run that put New Orleans near the Houston goal. Brooks flipped a two-yard pass to tight end Ernie Conwell to build a 24-10 advantage that put the game essentially out of reach. New Orleans got their final score when linebacker Derrick Rodgers grabbed a pass off of Billy Miller’s hands and rumbled 40 yards to the end zone.
Carr had a good first half throwing but, by game’s end, his stats looked as battered as he was. He was 17-of-36 for 213 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions, both on deflections.
The Houston running game couldn’t get going after a promising debut against Miami. Stacey Mack (31 yards) and Domanick Davis (23 yards) split time but neither could generate much with Houston losing the war at the point of attack.
Defensively, the Texans held up well but wore down. Inside linebackers Jay Foreman and Jamie Sharper were the top tacklers and that’s generally what Houston wants. But the club did not make any big plays as they did in Miami.
After facing Ricky Williams and Deuce McAllister the first two weeks, Houston gets no breaks from the schedule-maker as the Texans make their home debut against Priest Holmes and the 2-0 Kansas City Chiefs at Reliant Stadium. The game might prove which Texans we will see most of the 2003 campaign – the mentally tough team that beat Miami or the physically-beaten team that lost in the Superdome.
Although their offensive output died in the second half, the concept of a three-wide attack using Andre Johnson, Jabar Gaffney and Corey Bradford remained sound. All had big first-half catches. Johnson had five catches for 71 yards, Gaffney grabbed five passes for 61 yards and Bradford made perhaps the best catch of the afternoon to set up the go-ahead field goal.
Forced into the lineup early in the second quarter when Seth Payne left with a sprained knee, Martin manned the nose tackle position and held his own. Nothing spectacular but the Saints managed just two good runs over the middle of the line even though Martin was dinged in the third quarter. He showed heart and toughness.
Not when it mattered, at least. The only fumble was on the Gaffney stretch ruled out of bounds and the two interceptions were on deflections late in the game after the Saints had wrapped it up. The running backs held onto the ball and Carr didn’t become turnover prone until late when he had to make desperate throws against a horrific pass rush.
The Offensive Line
In the second half, David Carr had flashbacks of his nightmare season a year ago. It wasn’t just one weak link either. Just about everyone on the line gave up a sack as Grady Jackson, Charles Grant, Willie Whitehead and company gave Carr fits. The scary part was that New Orleans didn’t need to blitz much after the front four got going.
Penalties The laundry flew early and often for both teams as they combined for 20 penalties and 164 yards. Houston contributed 11 of them for 86 yards. By game’s end, they were declining penalties just to get the game over with.
The defense, which still has to help the offense score points at this stage, came up with no fumbles or interceptions. The offense is still good for just 10-14 points a game without the defense and special teams creating field position. That didn’t happen Sunday.
The Saints had taken the lead, 14-10, early in the third quarter, but the young Texans were answering. Carr had just rumbled 9 yards on 3rd-and-5 and was in Saint territory. But a sack and a 5-yard run left Houston with another crucial third down at the New Orleans 49.
Carr zipped a perfect pass to a wide-open Johnson, who dropped the easy catch that would have given Houston another third down conversion. Instead, Chad Stanley’s punt took a Saint bounce, and New Orleans seized the momentum, driving 57 yards to kick a field goal and knock the wind out of Houston’s sails, 17-10.
Week 2 Review David Carr stretches to reach the end zone. Final Score Houston Texans 10 New Orleans Saints 31 Lookin’ Good
You figured he’d be fired up against his former teammates, but Clemons looked far better at his outside linebacker position than he did during the pre-season. He even filled in as a rush end in spots. He doesn’t have Antwan Peek’s speed but, without the rookie around, Clemons played as if he didn’t need to think about his job being in jeopardy.
Oh, my eyes!
Matt Stevens stunk as usual, but Randall was constantly beaten on edge rushes and didn’t provide the push that he and Zach Weigert had given Houston the previous week. Now you see why the Patriots thought he was expendable.
2003 Schedule Date Opponent Result 08.09 Denver 12-20 08.15 at Dallas 6-34 08.23 San Diego 17-19 08.28 at Tampa Bay 3-34 Regular Season 09.07 at Miami 21-20 09.14 at New Orleans 10-31 09.21 Kansas City 14-42 09.28 Jacksonville 24-20 10.05 Bye — 10.12 at Tennessee 17-38 10.19 New York Jets 14-19 10.26 at Indianapolis 21-30 11.02 Carolina 14-10 11.09 at Cincinnati 27-34 11.16 at Buffalo 12-10 11.23 New England 20-23 11.30 Atlanta 17-13 12.07 at Jacksonville 0-27 12.14 at Tampa Bay 3-16 12.21 Tennessee 24-27 12.28 Indianapolis 17-20 Overall Record 5-11