Saints' defense shines in 13-0 preseason win over Texans
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By BRETT MARTEL
NEW ORLEANS (AP) Texans starting quarterback Tom Savage struggled to move Houston's offense. His popular backup, first-round draft choice Deshaun Watson, didn't do much to distinguish himself, either.
Perhaps a New Orleans Saints defense that has languished near the bottom of the NFL for three seasons is improving after all.
An interception by Damian Swann, and sacks by Darryl Tapp, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Rafael Bush and Adam Bighill highlighted a defensive performance that lifted New Orleans to a 13-0 preseason victory on Saturday night.
"We are cultivating the right mentality three games in. I think we are showing some promise," Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said. "It's preseason, so you take it for what it is. I love the way our defensive backs are playing and how our linebackers are rallying."
Two of the Saints' sacks and Swann's interception came against Watson.
"It didn't go our way, but it's a good tape to learn from," Watson said. "Once I watch the film, I'll figure it out."
Darius Victor ran for a 3-yard touchdown and Wil Lutz kicked field goals of 26 and 48 yards for New Orleans (2-1), which had won two straight exhibition games after ending a 10-game preseason skid in Los Angeles last week.
Adrian Peterson made his Saints preseason debut, totaling 15 yards on six carries which each went for 2 or 3 yards. He had one catch for a 1-yard loss.
Peterson's carries were his first in the preseason since 2011.
"It didn't look all good, but I know there are some good things on film," Peterson said. "Just looking on the sidelines on the run plays, it seems like we are just one block away."
Drew Brees played most of the first half in his first action this preseason. He completed 11 of 15 passes for 76 yards, but led only one scoring drive capped by Lutz's 26-yard field goal.
Savage was 10 of 16 for 79 yards for Houston (1-2). Watson was 11 of 21 for 116 yards and also scrambled twice for 10 yards. Watson's potential to extend plays showed when he stepped up to avoid Swann's blitz, then delivered an accurate, off-balance, 22-yard pass to RaShaun Allen as he was being hit by lineman Tony McDaniel.
Saints top draft choice Marshon Lattimore played throughout the first half and into the second. He was in on two tackles and broke up two passes.
The Texans were heading back to Dallas after the game because of flooding in Houston caused by Hurricane Harvey. The Texans were unsure how long they'd remain in Dallas but planned to return to Houston as soon as possible.
"We'll still get our work in and our film, and whenever we get a chance to go back home, we will," linebacker Brian Cushing said. "That's life. Some things come up. We've just got to get through them, got to adapt and we'll be fine."
Daniel is competing with two other QBs - 2015 third-round draft choice Garrett Grayson and free-agent acquisition Ryan Nassib - to be Brees' backup. Daniel completed 9 of 12 passes for 108 yards and took two sacks. Grayson was 2 of 6 for 25 yards, but also had a long pass dropped by Lewis.
Two young Texans defenders who grew up within a two-hour drive of New Orleans made standout plays. Rookie cornerback Treston Decoud, a fifth-round pick who played high school football in the New Orleans suburb of Mandeville, broke up a long pass intended for Lewis, and also drew an offensive pass interference penalty on Corey Fuller on a pass down the sideline. Outside linebacker Eric Lee, from Daphne, Alabama, had two sacks. Lee is a second-year pro who spent last season on Houston's practice squad.
"It's just like a little kid eating candy," Decoud said. "Just to play in front of the home fans and my family ... was like a dream come true."
Texans: Tight end Evan Baylis limped off the field favoring his left leg after an 8-yard first-down reception from Watson late in the first half.
Saints: Reserve LB and special teams regular Nate Stupar limped off the field favoring his right leg late in the third quarter. ... Rookie offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk, the 32nd overall pick in last spring's NFL draft, did not suit up after leaving practice two days earlier. He was in the stadium in warmups and did not appear to have any physical ailments.
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Updated August 27, 2017