Saints answer critics with win
By By Richard Dark / EMG staff writer
Sept. 15, 2003
NEW ORLEANS For once, the defense held up its end of the bargain, and even though it took a while, a couple of former state stars jump-started the slightly anemic New Orleans Saints offense.
The visiting Houston Texans suffered mightily on all fronts because of it.
As a result, the Saints shot back at their critics who declared this week that it would be a long season, with a resounding 31-10 victory in front of an elated sellout crowd of 68,390 inside the Louisiana Superdome.
It was the Saints first win, regular season or preseason, in this building since they defeated Tampa Bay here last December.
"We started off slow, but I thought we really picked it up in the second half," Saints coach Jim Haslett said. "We finally got into a situation where we could get after some people on defense. There were a lot of leaders out there on that field today. They knew last week was not acceptable. We practiced better this week and got after it this game."
The second half was when most of the "getting after it" commenced. The Saints front four displayed a relentless flight to the ball on virtually every snap and it translated to only 98 yards of total offense in the final two quarters and no points.
With Houston (1-1) not being able to sustain any type of production over that span, it allowed Haslett to do what he likes to do, which is pound Deuce McAllister at the opposition, until other areas open up.
The former Ole Miss star loosened up the Texans' defense and Joe Horn outright killed them slowly as the Saints slowly imposed their will in the second half, rallying from a small 10-7 halftime deficit.
"We just wanted to come out here and prove wrong everybody who had been blasting us, said McAllister, who turned in another near century-mark performance, settling for 96 yards on 20 carries, the highlight a 24-yard touchdown scamper that opened the day's scoring.
Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks got untracked and finished with 189 yards on 18-of-27 passing, most of that to the former Itawamba product Horn, who collected 111 yards on 10 catches.
"Leadership was big time important for us today," Horn said. "This game boils down to one man against one man. It wasn't just me. Every guy was called out today and every guy had to step up and respond. That's what this game is all about."
And at the heart of that was Brooks, who has been under constant scrutiny throughout the four-game losing skid that ended Sunday. He responded too, with a 35-yard touchdown strike to Donte Stallworth in the third quarter that gave the Saints (1-1) their second lead of the day at 14-10 with 10:50 left in the third.
He also later found tight end Ernie Conwell for his first score a 2-yard dump with 8:56 to play – that gave New Orleans a commanding lead.
The offense finished with numbers everyone knew they were capable of, but on this day, it was the defense that will more than likely stick out in the minds of the Saints' faithful.
Houston quarterback David Carr tallied 213 yards through the air, but was much less effective than Brooks, tossing a pair of interceptions. He was hassled for the entire 60 minutes, being sacked five times and being pressured, hit or hurried dozens more. Last week, he wasn't sacked once.
"That (Saints defense) is something you don't want to go through every week," said Carr, who absorbed dozens of sacks his rookie season. "That was the most physical game I have played since I've been here. After a decent first (scoring) drive, it seemed like we faced third and long all game."
His low point came when former Mississippi Valley State product Ashley Ambrose knocked the ball loose from Houston wideout Billy Miller and linebacker Derrick Rodgers ran back the interception to put the finishing touches on the authoritative afternoon with 2:43 left.
"It was great to just unleash what we are capable on people and really bring it and play wide open like that," said a beaming Rodgers in his first game of