The Houston Texans and the New Orleans Saints delivered a thrilling preseason finale on Saturday, August 28, 2023, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The game was full of exciting plays, dramatic turnovers, and a nail-biting finish. Here are some of the highlights from the game.
Saints’ Rookie QB Jake Haener Shines in Debut
One of the most impressive performances of the game came from Saints’ rookie quarterback Jake Haener, who made his NFL debut in the second half. Haener, a fourth-round pick from Fresno State, showed off his arm strength, accuracy, and mobility as he led the Saints to three scoring drives. He completed 15 of 23 passes for 212 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. He also ran for 28 yards on four carries.
Haener’s first touchdown pass was a 19-yard dart to wide receiver Jontre Kirklin while evading pressure from the Texans’ defense. His second touchdown pass was a 34-yard strike to tight end Nick Vannett in the fourth quarter. Haener also had some clutch throws on third and fourth downs to keep the drives alive.
However, Haener also made some costly mistakes that ultimately cost the Saints the game. He threw two interceptions in the end zone, one to defensive back Grayland Arnold and one to cornerback Cameron Dantzler. Both picks came on deep passes that were underthrown and contested by the Texans’ secondary. Haener also failed to convert a fourth-and-15 in the final minute of the game, sealing the Texans’ victory.
Texans’ Defense Forces Four Turnovers
The Texans’ defense was opportunistic and aggressive throughout the game, forcing four turnovers and sacking the Saints’ quarterbacks five times. The Texans’ defense also scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery by linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill in the first quarter.
The Texans’ defense was especially dominant in the red zone, preventing the Saints from scoring touchdowns on four trips inside the 20-yard line. The Texans’ defense also came up with big plays in crucial moments, such as Arnold’s interception in the end zone with less than four minutes left in the game and Dantzler’s interception on fourth down with 18 seconds left in the game.
The Texans’ defense was led by defensive end Charles Omenihu, who had two sacks and a forced fumble. Linebacker Zach Cunningham also had a strong game, leading the team with nine tackles and a sack. Defensive back Lonnie Johnson Jr. had an interception and a pass breakup.
Texans’ Offense Shows Balance and Efficiency
The Texans’ offense was balanced and efficient throughout the game, scoring 23 points and gaining 337 yards of total offense. The Texans’ offense had a good mix of run and pass plays, rushing for 146 yards and passing for 191 yards.
The Texans’ offense was led by quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who started the game and played until late in the second quarter. Taylor completed 10 of 11 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 16 yards on two carries. Taylor’s touchdown pass was a 14-yard toss to wide receiver Chris Conley in the second quarter.
The Texans’ offense also got contributions from running backs Mark Ingram II and Phillip Lindsay, who combined for 87 yards on 19 carries. Ingram scored a touchdown on a one-yard plunge in the first quarter. Lindsay had some explosive runs, including a 22-yard burst in the third quarter.
The Texans’ offense also showed some depth at wide receiver, as Conley, Keke Coutee, Nico Collins, and Anthony Miller all had at least three catches and 30 yards receiving. Conley led the team with four catches for 51 yards and a touchdown.
Final Score and Next Games
The final score of the game was 23-21 in favor of the Texans, who improved their preseason record to 2-1. The Saints fell to 0-3 in the preseason.
The next games for both teams will be their regular season openers on Sunday, September 12, 2023. The Texans will host the Jacksonville Jaguars at NRG Stadium at 1:00 PM ET. The Saints will host the Green Bay Packers at Mercedes-Benz Superdome at 4:25 PM ET.