With the return of the preseason, the 2022-23 NFL season is now underway for the New Orleans Saints. The Black and Gold were facing the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. For the Saints, the important thing was to stay healthy, while getting a good look at some young players hoping to make the team out of training camp.
After a strong showing by New Orleans’ starting defense early, the Saints drove down the field with Andy Dalton at the helm, carving up the Texans’ defense in a 10-play, 67 yards drive that resulted in a touchdown pass from Dalton to Dwayne Washington, and a 7-0 New Orleans lead after the extra point by Wil Lutz, who was making his return to an NFL field in more than a full season.
The Texans responded to the Saints’ score with a field goal to make the score 7-3, and Houston took the lead in the second quarter led by Jeff Driskel replacing starter Davis Mills and engineering a short 47-yard touchdown drive following a Saints’ turnover on a fumbled snap.
Later in the second quarter, the Saints took the momentum back on an interception by linebacker Chase Hansen, who showed up big time in this game after being just signed by New Orleans following the abrupt retirement of Kiko Alonso. After stalling in the red zone, Wil Lutz converted a 23-yard field goal to tie the game at 10, which would be the score at halftime.
In the second half, with both teams playing mostly their second and third stringers, Texans and Saints exchanged brief drives and punts for all of the third quarter. The game would go into the fourth quarter tied at 10, and New Orleans driving.
In the fourth quarter, the Saints finally dented the scoreboard again via a 36-yard field goal by John Parker Romo, giving New Orleans a 13-10 lead. New Orleans continued to dominate the ball possession in the quarter, driving once again deep into Texans’ territory and unfortunately fumbling the ball at Houston’s one-yard line after a run by rookie Abram Smith, who had been playing well.
New Orleans would wrestle the momentum back quickly, with Brian Allen intercepting Jeff Driskel on a deep pass intended for Jalen Camp. After forcing the Texans to burn their timeouts the Saints punted the ball back to Houston with 2:22 left in the game. Jeff Driskel would then drive the Texans 90 yards for a touchdown, throwing the ball to Jaleel Johnson in the corner of the end zone with 25 seconds left.
With only 20 seconds left, Ian Book had no chance, and the Saints would lose the game 17-13.
Below is a quarter-by-quarter recap of the action.
Saints defense forced the Texans into a quick three-and-out, giving the ball to their offense. The Saints’ offense drives down the field for a touchdown led by Andy Dalton. The Saints ran a 10-play drive that took 5:22 off the clock and was crowned by a Dalton pass to Dwayne Washington for a 9-yard touchdown.
Saints 7 - Texans 0
The Texans respond with a 49-yard field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn to narrow the Saints’ lead.
Saints 7 - Texans 3
The quarter ends with New Orleans up by four points,
With Ian Book having taken over, the Saints’ offense stalls and a fumbled snap by Book gives Houston the ball at the Saints’ 34-yard line. The Texans take advantage and Jeff Driskel throws a four-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Camp for the lead.
Saints 7 - Texans 10
The Texans get the ball again and drive into Saints’ territory, but an interception by Chase Hansen is returned 45 yards into Texans’ territory. Hansen has been a bright light in the game.
The Saints take over and drive into the Texans’ red zone, running the ball with Tony Jones Jr.
After Tre’Quan Smith dropped a perfectly-thrown fade pass into the end zone by Ian Book, Wil Lutz marked his return by converting a 23-yard field goal and tying the game at 10.
Saints 10 - Texans 10
Texans start from their 25-yard line after a touchback. Texans go three-and-out after a nice pass breakup by DaMarcus Fields. After the Texans’ punt, the Saints take over at their 15-yard line. Ian Book is sacked twice and the Saints have to punt from their one-yard line with 32 seconds left in the half. The Texans return Blake Gillikin’s punt to the Saints’ 38-yard line. Houston quickly faces a third-and-13 with 12 seconds left. A pass interference on Houston is called, leading to a 3rd-and-23. After a 10-yard catch, the Texans call a timeout with two seconds left and attempt a 59-yard field goal, which Ka’imi Fairbairn misses wide right.
Saints start the half with the ball, but go three-and-out and punt. Texans take over at their 12-yard line, still piloted by Jeff Driskel. Houston goes three-and-out as well. Following a personal foul on Houston, the Saints take over at their own 47-yard line. A holding penalty pushes New Orleans back and the Saints are forced to punt again.
Texans take over and drive the ball to their 30-yard line, but a sack of Driskel leads to another punt. Saints take over and as has become the norm in this quarter, quickly face a long third down. Miraculously, Ian Book converts the third down, and New Orleans runs the ball with Devine Ozigbo. SAints finally stall at their own 47-yard line and punt.
Starting inside their 10-yard line, the Texans face a third down and Jeff Driskel is intercepted by Justin Evans at the Saints’ 45-yard line with 1:27 left in the third quarter. The Saints run the ball with Ozigbo, getting into Texans’ territory as the quarter ends.
Ian Book runs on a pass-option play for a first down to the Texans’ 30-yard line. New Orleans gets into the red zone running the ball with Devine Ozigbo. The Saints stall at the Texans’ 18-yard line and John Parker Romo makes a 36-yard field goal.
Saints 13 - Texans 10
Texans take over at their 25-yard line, but Houston goes three-and-out again, on a dropped ball on third down. Saints start at their 27-yard line and Ian Book finds Abram Smith on second and short for a first down near midfield. Book then finds Kawaan Baker at the Texans’ 27-yard line. Book, who is now cooking, finds Easop Winston Jr. inside Houston’s red zone. After a short pass to Dai’Jean Dixon, the Saints face a 3rd-and–5 at the Texans’ 15-yard line. Book finds tight end Nick Vannett for a first and goal at the Texans’ 5-yard line. On second and goal, Abram Smith fumbles the ball at the Texans’ one-yard line and Houston recovers.
Texans find a first down to their 17-yard line on 3rd-and-5, keeping their hope of tying the game or taking the lead. But on second down, Brian Allen intercepts Jeff Driskel on a deep ball underthrown to Jalen Camp.
Saints take over at their 40-yard line and drive into Texans’ territory, as Houston begins to take their timeouts. Saints run the ball with Abram Smith and at 4th-and-6, punt the ball back to Houston with 2:22 left in the game.
Texans take over at their 10-yard line and gain a first down on an 11-yard pass as the two-minute warning stops the clock. On the very next play, the Saints botch a shot-play, as Driskel finds Jalen Camp for a 49-yard gain to the Saints’ 30-yard line. Driskel drives the Texans inside the red zone and on third-and-goal from the 9-yard line, Driskel finds Jaleel Johnson for a touchdown.
Saints 13 - Texans 17
Saints cannot do anything with 20 seconds left, and the Texans win the game.