Texans win fourth straight, rout Saints
HOUSTON (AP) For the first time in a decade, the New Orleans Saints finished a game without scoring a touchdown.
Credit J.J. Watt and a continually improving Houston Texans defense for that.
Houston’s offense got off to a fast start for a change and the defense did the rest to help the Texans cruise to a 24-6 win over the Saints on Sunday.
New Orleans (4-7) dropped its third straight on a day when the team didn’t score a touchdown for the first time since 2005, snapping a streak of 155 games and Drew Brees’ streak of games with a touchdown pass ended at 45.
The last time the Saints didn’t score a touchdown was Dec. 24, 2005 against Detroit and Brees’ last game without a touchdown pass came on Nov. 29, 2012 against Atlanta. His streak was the fifth-longest in NFL history.
”That’s a long time,” Watt said. ”That’s a very high-powered offense with a very good quarterback and very good coaching staff … so it’s everybody doing their job. Everybody up front, on the back end executing their assignment, knowing what they’re supposed to do and doing it very well.”
Watt had seven quarterback hits and two sacks to push his NFL lead to 13 1/2. He would have had another, but Brees threw the ball into the turf as Watt wrapped him up and was penalized for intentional grounding in the second quarter.
”There were a number of losses that frustrate me,” New Orleans coach Sean Payton said. ”This was not the most frustrating ever (but) it’s disappointing to lose a game like that, and it’s definitely disappointing not to score a touchdown.”
Brian Hoyer, who finished with two touchdowns, went 7 for 7 on the opening drive. He capped it with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Griffin to give Houston a score on the opening possession for the first time this season.
The Texans (6-5) have won four in a row for the first time since winning six straight in 2012 and remain tied with Indianapolis for first place in the AFC South. The string of wins came after they were embarrassed in a 44-26 loss at Miami.
”We just had enough of playing like that,” linebacker Brian Cushing said. ”We started simplifying things and playing hard. Just had a bad taste in or mouth from a couple of those games and just internally promised each other it wouldn’t happen again.”
Brees was 25 of 44 for 228 yards. The Saints converted just 3 of 12 third down attempts.
”You get in third and long against these guys, you are asking for trouble because obviously they dial up the pass rush,” Brees said.
It was the first game since defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was fired and replaced by Dennis Allen. But the change didn’t lead to better results and the Saints gave up several big plays.
Hoyer was 21 of 27 with an interception in his return after missing last week’s game with a concussion.
An 8-yard touchdown run by Alfred Blue extended Houston’s lead to 21-6 in the third. Griffin grabbed a short pass in the middle of the field and dashed for a 37-yard gain on that drive.
Kareem Jackson, who returned after missing four games with an ankle injury, intercepted Brees at the goal line in the third quarter and returned it 50 yards. He might have gone all the way, but Jadeveon Clowney, who was downfield blocking, got in his way, allowing the defense to catch up and bring him down.
”I didn’t know if I was going to block back or block in front,” Clowney said. ”They were closing in on me real fast … I was stuck.”
The Texans pushed the lead to 14-0 when Hoyer threw a shovel pass to Cecil Shorts for a touchdown on Houston’s second drive.
Hoyer completed his first 11 passes before he was intercepted by Jairus Byrd. But the Saints couldn’t move the ball and had to punt.
The Saints cut the lead to 14-3 on a 30-yard field goal in the second quarter. New Orleans trailed 14-6 at halftime after a career-long 57-yard field goal by Kai Forbath.
NOTES: New Orleans WR Marques Colston finished with three receptions for 38 yards to give him 702 receptions in his career. … Houston WR DeAndre Hopkins caught a pass in his 43rd straight game and finished with five receptions for 36 yards.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL