HOUSTON — With a rematch that counts set for the third week of the season, the New Orleans Saints didn’t want to show the Texans too much Saturday night at Reliant Stadium in their second preseason game.
What the Saints did was show the Texans plenty of ways to run into the end zone.
Arian Foster ran for 47 yards and two first-quarter touchdowns, while backup Ben Tate ran for 95 yards and another touchdown in the second quarter en route to a 27-14 Texans victory.
In all, New Orleans gave up 208 yards rushing — 142 in the first half mostly with the Saints first-string defense on the field. The Texans averaged 6.1 yards on 34 carries.
“This is a time of year where often times teams can kid themselves on whether they are ready to play or not,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “I’m not saying that is what happened with us tonight, but we’re not a finished product. We have a long way to go.”
Offensively, Drew Brees and the New Orleans starters were able to move the ball better than they did in their preseason opener against the San Francisco 49ers last week when they finished without a first down.
Brees completed 7 of 14 passes for 109 yards, playing 30 offensive snaps. Brees was sacked and lost a fumble at the Texans’ 4-yard line on the game’s opening drive, however, putting a damper on a 76-yard drive.
“I thought it was a good first drive, mixing the run and the pass,” Brees said. “It was a lot of positive plays only to get down inside their 10-yard line and then have the turnover especially at my hands is unacceptable. That can’t happen.”
Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles all saw action with the first-string offense. Thomas led the group with 33 yards on six carries, while Ingram scored his second touchdown of the preseason and finished with 25 yards on seven carries. “I’m just trying to get better every day,” Ingram said. “We have a great backfield. It’s hard for me to feel like I have pressure on myself because I have great teammates around me to where I don’t have to have that pressure on myself.”
Undrafted rookie free agent Joseph Morgan had his second highlight-reel touchdown of the preseason, catching a 56-yard pass from Saints backup quarterback Chase Daniel.
Morgan finished the game with the lone catch, while Daniels was inconsistent, completing 6 of 14 passes for 127 yards and the one score and one interception.
“We had a fast start, which is what you want as a quarterback,” Daniel said. “But we didn’t make plays down the stretch. We made some mental errors, not executing the plays and trying to do too much.”
For the Texans, quarterback Matt Schaub was on target, completing 12 of 16 passes for 163 yards in a quarter and a half of action, while Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson caught four of those passes for 100 yards in that same time span.
“We moved the ball really good,” Texans coach Gary Kubiak said. “Both of our backs played well. It’s just nice to get out there and get to work. It was good to see us get into a rhythm.”
On the opening possession, Brees was sacked by Antonio Smith at the Texans’ 4-yard line. Mario Williams recovered the fumble that bounced all the way to the Saints’ 28-yard line.
Houston capitalized on the turnover, marching 72 yards on seven plays in 3:40, highlighted by a 2-yard touchdown run by Foster, last year’s NFL rushing leader.
After a Saints punt, the Texans drove the ball 80 yards for another score. This time, it only took three plays, highlighted by a 48-yard pass from Schaub to Johnson and a 28-yard touchdown run by Foster, who had been battling a hamstring injury the past two weeks.
New Orleans was able to get points on its next possession, marching 70 yards down the field in 4:05, highlighted by a 43-yard reception by Robert Meachem. Ingram scored his second touchdown of the preseason on a fourth-and-goal from the 1.
Tate replaced Foster on the Texans’ third possession and had a 23-yard run that led to a Neil Rackers 49-yard field goal and a 17-7 Texans lead just before the Saints took out their starters.
Tate went back to work on the next drive, eventually scoring on a 4-yard TD run. Tate, who missed all of last season after breaking his ankle on his first carry of the 2010 preseason, added a 43-yard run right before halftime.
“Wow — I guess practice is overrated,” Kubiak said. “I’m excited for Ben — he’s missed a lot of time. He worked hard in practice this week. That is a big step in his career. If we can get that out of him behind Arian, that is going to be a nice thing to have.”
Chris Ogbonnaya added 51 more yards for the Texans on 15 carries over the final two quarters, which only saw a 40-yard Rackers field goal.
“We’ve got a lot to do,” Payton said. “Some valuable lessons will come from this.”
The only Saints injuries reported were DT Abrayo Franklin (knee) and RB Chris Taylor (foot). …The paid attendance of 70,828 was the largest crowd in Texans preseason history. …The Texans did not turn the ball over. The Saints fumbled three times, losing two, along with an interception. … Saints receiver Devery Henderson got a personal foul called against him in the first half after getting into a small scuffle with Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson. … Former LSU star Trindon Holliday was inactive for the Texans, while Terrence Toliver , also of LSU, was held without a catch. … Saints CB Patrick Robinson started for inactive Tracy Porter (knee). Also, safety Paul Oliver started for Malcolm Jenkins (knee), who did not play. Jonathan Casillas started at linebacker in place of Scott Shanle, who saw action later in the game. … Former Saints coach Bum Phillips was on hand for a half-time presentation.