HOUSTON — Jairus Byrd has waited a long time to make the first interception of his Saints career.
A player with a reputation as a ballhawk in Buffalo, Byrd arrived in New Orleans with 22 career interceptions and a penchant for getting his hands on the ball, but the injuries that robbed him of more than a full calendar year also put him in an interception drought that lasted more than two full years.
Byrd finally broke that streak Sunday, making a diving catch of an errant Brian Hoyer pass in the second quarter that halted Houston’s early momentum.
“It was just a play where we had good coverage, and the play kind of broke down,” Byrd said. “Hoyer had to buy some time and then threw it over the middle. And fortunately, I was able to be there and make a play.”
Byrd, who made his last interception in a Nov. 10, 2013, game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, ended a three-game interception drought for the New Orleans defense. The Saints hadn’t made a pick in 15 quarters, dating to Kyle Wilson’s interception of Andrew Luck against Indianapolis. Due to that drought, New Orleans entered the game tied with three other teams for the fewest interceptions in the league.
Kai Forbath has never been known for having a big leg.
Forbath, always accurate in his time in Washington, lost his job there largely because of leg strength and issues on kickoffs.
Up until Sunday’s game, Forbath’s career long was 50 yards.
Then Sean Payton sent Forbath out for a 57-yard attempt late in the first half.
“Obviously, there’s no wind, it was kind of right on the cusp (of Forbath’s range),” Payton said. “It was either that or punt, and I felt like we were needing something.”
Forbath, who has been solid in New Orleans — his only miss was a blocked kick that would have won the game against Tennessee — drilled the kick through the uprights, notching the third-longest kick in franchise history.
“I didn’t feel like it was outside of his range, it was just a matter of whether or not he got a clean hit,” Payton said. “You just worry about the trajectory when you’re kicking a longer kick like that, and he hit it good. It was a big play for us.”
Support for Miles
Texans running back Alfred Blue, like most of the former LSU players around the league, has kept an eye on the saga surrounding his former coach. But Blue had a feeling Les Miles wasn’t leaving Baton Rouge this year.
“I figured ol’ Les was going to stay there,” Blue said. “I didn’t think they were going to get rid of him. He’s like 115-30. Who are they going to get to replace him?”
Turned out Blue, who rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown Sunday, had a pretty good read on the situation. LSU’s administration announced that Miles would return as the Tigers coach after LSU’s win over Texas A&M on Saturday night.
First-round pick Andrus Peat started at guard for the Saints in place of Tim Lelito and had some positive moments.
He also endured some struggles.
While he possesses plenty of potential and should be a long-term answer at tackle once Zach Strief moves on, he was beaten by Texans defensive end J.J. Watt for a quarterback hit and a sack.
“I felt pretty good,” Peat said. “Definitely some things I want to clean up. I just came into the game that I wanted to be as physical as I could.”
Drew Brees passed the 3,000-yard mark in the first half on an 11-yard completion to Brandin Cooks, the 13th time in his career he’s broken that barrier. Only four other quarterbacks have put together that many 3,000-yard seasons: Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Dan Marino and Tom Brady. ... Marques Colston’s first catch of the game was the 700th of the receiver’s career, making him one of 45 players in NFL history to reach the mark. … C.J. Spiller handled both of the Saints’ kickoff returns, marking the second straight game he’s taken over the role from rookie Marcus Murphy, who still handles punt-return duties.