“It’s tough to win in this league and it was awesome to see the way our guys grinded it out and stepped up in the end. I couldn’t be more proud of our defense and you continue to see growth in these guys through the whole team. You saw resiliency today in situations you didn’t last week."
The Houston Texans defense made a leap this week.
Houston’s offense has been the talking point this season. CJ Stroud has been exceptional and has led the team in the right direction and stepped up early in the year.
But the story on Sunday against the Saints was the Texans defense. The unit repeatedly stepped up against a tough team, stopping New Orleans in key spots on the way to a 20-13 win.
“It’s tough to win in this league and it was awesome to see the way our guys grinded it out and stepped up in the end,” said Texans head coach Demeco Ryans. “I couldn’t be more proud of our defense and you continue to see growth in these guys through the whole team. You saw resiliency today in situations you didn’t last week. That’s growth the way they finished it out.”
It took some time for the Texans offense to find its stride, but once they did Houston never relinquished the lead. Houston was forced to punt on its opening drive, but the Houston defense forced a long field goal from New Orleans that missed. Stroud nearly made a big mistake the next drive, throwing the first interception of his career and breaking a streak of 191 attempts without an interception, but the Texans forced a fumble on the same play and got the ball back, after which Stroud drove the team down the field and threw a 1-yard touchdown to Dalton Schultz.
New Orleans responded right back with a touchdown drive of its own, getting a big play from Derek Carr to Rashid Shaheed for the score, but Houston got back into the redzone and retook the lead with a 24 yard field goal from Ka’imi Fairbairn early in the second quarter. The Texans kept pushing as well, getting a three-and-out on defense and thend driving down the field with a strong run game before Stroud found Robert Woods for a 6-yard touchdown pass, but the Saints trimmed things to a 17-10 Texans lead as the teams went into halftime.
“There was a lot of hard work put into this,” Stroud said. “We worked our tails off in practice on the little things and we really took away from that that we could be better than we even are right now. In our losses we’ve missed some key details and that’s what it boils down to. We corrected some of that today and it comes down to that hard work at practice and getting better every day.”
Houston made it to the redzone again on its first drive of the second half but were again limited to a field goal, and the Saints came back with a field goal of their own to trim it back to a touchdown lead for Houston.
New Orleans had another good drive to start the third quarter before a missed field goal thwarted things, and kept Houston up by seven. The Saints kept pushing and again got the ball deep in Houston territory before Blake Cashman made one of the biggest defensive pay of the game, stopping Alvin Kamara short on a fourth and short and getting Houston the ball back. The Saints had one more chance, but the Texans defense, put in a spot where they could win the game, delivered. Houston held the Saints once they got into Houston territory and sealed the win on a fourth down interception by Steven Nelson that stopped the drive and allowed the Houston offense to run the final seconds off the clock.
“Something we talked about all week was finishing,” Ryans said. “We’re continuing to get better, but to win games, you have to finish. It was nice to do that, especially headed into our bye week. Now we can go in and work from a positive place. There’s definitely things still to clean up in all three phases, but it’s easier to do those things coming off a win.”
The win puts Houston at 3-3 going into its bye week and a game back of the first place Jaguars in the AFC South, putting the Texans in prime position to contend for the division at least early on.
“We have to go and attack this bye week and get better there as well,” Stroud said. “The rest is going to be nice and will get us ready for the rest of this season but it’s going to be nice to work on that execution, get better and keep working. I’m so happy with this win and I’m proud of these guys for being resilient. Now we have to keep fighting.”