NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Jabari Greer had one of the tougher assignments on the field, and it didn't always go well.
Andre Johnson, the man Greer was supposed to help cover, had more than 100 yards receiving in the first half alone. Yet when Matt Schaub looked for Johnson while Houston was trying to protect a fourth-quarter lead, Greer's interception at midfield helped propel the Saints to a 40-33 comeback victory on Sunday.
``They did some great plays to expose some of the weaknesses in our defense. You know, we can't cover everything,' Greer said. ``I was actually quite impressed by their offensive play-calling. ... But at the end, you know, we said, 'Enough is enough.' We were able to rise up and come together and stop it and say, 'No more.''
After a thrilling second half with five lead changes, Saints coach Sean Payton seemed proud of the grit his team showed on a day when injuries cost them two starting offensive linemen - center Olin Kreutz (left leg) and right tackle Zach Strief (right knee).
``You find ways to win and certainly you can find ways to lose. It's just not dumb luck,' Payton said. ``We hung in and did enough good things. ... You're going to have some hard-fought wins and we were able to get this one.'
Drew Brees was intercepted for the first two times this season, but made up for it with 370 yards passing and three second-half touchdown passes, including a 27-yard strike to Jimmy Graham as the Saints (2-1) began to claw back from a 26-17 fourth-quarter deficit.
Graham's performance was nearly marred by a miscommunication with Brees on Danieal Manning's interception, which led to James Casey's diving 26-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter. But Graham redeemed himself with his touchdown and a late 23-yard reception on third-and-10 that set up the first TD of Mark Ingram's career, a 13-yard run that gave New Orleans the lead for good.
``I love the fact that we can have something happen on the field that's a negative ... and instead of him getting down like some young players might and having that affect, what happens later on, he comes out and make a couple huge catches,' Brees said of the 6-foot-6 Graham, a second-year pro and converted basketball player out of Miami. ``He's mentally tough, physically tough, he wants to be great and he wants me to be able to trust him and have confidence in him, which I do.'
Schaub passed for 373 yards and three TDs, and the Texans' prolific offense moved the ball well for most of the game. Houston (2-1) was doomed by four drives inside the 20 that resulted in only field goals, along with Greer's interception that set up Lance Moore's 16-yard touchdown catch.
``Our red zone performance wasn't good enough against a team like that, or any team, for that matter,' Schaub said. ``We needed touchdowns. We settled for too many field goals. We had to find a way to put it in the end zone.'
Houston, looking to open 3-0 for the first time, came away regretting missed opportunities.
Ben Tate, who was trying to become only the second running back to open his NFL career with three 100-yard rushing games, was held to 82 yards on 19 carries.
After a quiet second half, Johnson finished with seven catches for 128 yards. Casey finished with five receptions for 126.
``We came into the game wanting to know where we are as a football team,' Johnson said. ``Everyone battled and left it all out there on the field, but we just didn't score seven points when we needed to. ... and playing against an offense like (the Saints'), you have to score seven instead of three.'
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved