1:00 PM ET, September 25, 2011
Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
The Houston Texans' short history hasn't yielded much success, which may be the reason back-to-back victories aren't enough to get the team talking playoffs just yet.
A win over the New Orleans Saints would go a long way in helping prove this season could be different.
Houston seeks its first-ever 3-0 start Sunday at the Louisiana Superdome.
The Texans have won their first two games for the third time in five years after beating Miami 23-13 last week. They got off to the same start in 2010, only to lose 10 of their final 14 games.
That marked the fifth time Houston has lost at least 10 games after it finished 2009 with a franchise-best 9-7 record. Coach Gary Kubiak said his squad isn't thinking about the possibility of the first playoff berth in the Texans' 10-year history, but rather focusing on the task at hand.
"We've got a lot more poise (than last season)," Kubiak said. "Nobody's in here jumping around, high-fiving each other. We're just in here, business as usual, trying to correct our mistakes, trying to understand what we're going to have to do better to win in New Orleans."
Though the Texans allowed the Dolphins to pull within three points early in the fourth quarter, their defense has been among the league's best through the first two weeks.
Under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, Houston is allowing league bests of 271.0 yards and 10.0 points per game -- a vast improvement from the 442.0 yards and 25.5 points through two games last season.
The Texans finished 2010 with the NFL's 30th-ranked defense.
"We're surprised at how quickly the process has taken place, with no offseason and Wade really just having those guys for just seven or eight weeks," Kubiak said. "When you watch the work that's taking place every day, the energy we're playing with, how hard we're playing, you know why you're getting much better results."
That unit, though, will face its toughest test to date.
New Orleans (1-1) ranks fifth offensively, averaging 429.5 yards and 32.0 points after beating Chicago 30-13 last week. The Saints have outscored their opponents 128-78 in winning four of their last five home games.
Drew Brees has averaged 313.5 yards and thrown for 15 touchdowns while winning five of his last six at home against AFC opponents.
Brees threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns against the Bears -- including a 79-yard scoring pass to Devery Henderson, who had three catches for 103 yards as top receiver Marques Colston continues to recover from a broken collarbone suffered in a Week 1 loss at Green Bay.
"I know there is a high level of trust that exists between our quarterback and Devery," coach Sean Payton said. "That depth for us, that experience, definitely pays off when you have an injury like we have had with Marques."
Those numbers have helped offset the limited production from reigning NFL rushing champion Arian Foster, who missed Week 1 against Indianapolis while recovering from a hamstring injury and carried only 10 times for 33 yards last Sunday.
Foster's backup, Ben Tate, has stepped up, rushing for 103 yards against Miami after totaling 116 versus the Colts.
Foster's status for Sunday is uncertain.
"He's playing really well," Kubiak said of Tate. "As we work Arian back into what we're doing, and get him back to full speed, Ben's going to probably carry most of the load right now."
The Saints saw Tate's talents in Houston's 27-14 preseason victory Aug. 20, when he carried nine times for 95 yards and a touchdown.
"That's not a pretty film," Payton said.
New Orleans, though, gave up only 60 yards on the ground against Chicago. It marked the third time in the last four regular-season games it held its opponent to fewer than 100 yards on the ground, and the 14th time in 15 games it hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher.
The teams have split two all-time meetings, with Houston winning the most recent matchup at home 23-10 on Nov. 18, 2007.
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1. Houston needs to get to Drew Brees: Few quarterbacks do a better job than Brees of recognizing blitzes and checking off to the most effective solution. Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is a master at bringing heat from different directions, and Phillips has done an excellent job putting OLB Mario Williams in position to make plays, and Williams and his mates need to get Brees out of rhythm because the Saints can carve up a defense when given time.
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New Orleans Saints
|Avg Points Allowed||20.0||29.3|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||HOU|
|Rush Yds Allowed||HOU|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|New Orleans leads 2-1|
|Nov 18, 2007||HOU 23, NO 10|
|Sep 14, 2003||HOU 10, @NO 31|