NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -Andy Dalton threw a touchdown pass on his only possession in his debut with New Orleans, but the Saints fell to the Houston Texans 17-13 Saturday night after a touchdown in the final minute.
Dalton, who joined the Saints after spending last season with the Bears, started with Jameis Winston out after he injured his foot in practice Monday.
Dalton was a perfect 5 for 5 for 51 yards. He threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Washington to put New Orleans up 7-0 early.
Houston quarterback Davis Mills was 3 for 3 for 14 yards in two drives where the team failed to get a first down.
The Texans are sticking with Mills as their starter this season despite a subpar rookie campaign when he played 13 games in the team’s dreadful 4-13 season.
Both teams featured the debut of new head coaches with Dennis Allen taking over for Sean Payton in New Orleans and Lovie Smith replacing David Culley for the Texans. Both Allen and Smith moved into the top job after working last season as their team’s defensive coordinator.
The winning TD connection came courtesy of a Jeff Driskell to Jaleel Johnson 6-yard score.
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Jeff Driskel threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to rookie Johnny Johnson III in the final minute to lift Houston to the win.
The Texans cut the lead to 7-3 on a 49-yard field goal by Ka’imi Fairbairn late in the first quarter.
Houston took a 10-7 lead when Driskel connected with Jalen Camp on a 4-yard touchdown pass early in the second. That score came after Obo Okoronkwo recovered a fumble by quarterback Ian Book.
Camp had a 49-yard reception on Houston’s final drive to help set up the score.
The Saints tied it about two minutes before halftime on a 23-yard field goal by Will Lutz.
A 36-yard field goal by John Parker Romo put New Orleans up 13-10 early in the fourth quarter.
Receiver Chris Olave, taken 11th overall, and 19th pick left tackle Trevor Penning made their debut Saturday night for New Orleans. Olave had one reception for 4 yards.
A bright spot for the Texans was the play of rookie fourth-round pick Dameon Pierce, who had five carries for 49 yards. Houston is expected to start Marlon Mack, but Pierce is likely to also get carries this season as the team attempts to improve a running game that has been among the worst in the NFL for the past two seasons.
Houston rookie safety Jalen Pitre, a second-round pick, had a solid debut with four tackles, including one for a loss.
Chase Hansen led the Saints with six tackles, including two for losses, and returned an interception 44 yards to set up a field goal in the second quarter.
It was one of three interceptions thrown by Driskel.
The Texans were without their two first-round draft picks with cornerback Derek Stingley Jr., taken third overall, and left guard Kenyon Green, the 15th pick, missing the game with injuries.
Stingley has been participating in practice but is being brought along slowly as he continues to recover from September surgery to repair a torn ligament in his foot. Green has missed practice time recently with a knee injury.
Stingley was a consensus All-America selection as a freshman in 2019 but was hampered by injury the past two seasons, including being limited to just three games last year at LSU because of the foot injury. Despite the setbacks, the Texans are confident that he’ll be able to step in early and help turn around a secondary that was among the league’s worst last season.
Saints: Visit the Green Bay Packers Friday night.
Texans: Visit the Los Angeles Rams Friday night.
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