Porous run defense big first-half development

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
HOUSTON -- Some good things happened here at Reliant Stadium for the Texans in the first half. But they trail 17-7 against the Saints because of the bad.

That starts with their run defense, which certainly appears to be a problem area. Mike Bell, listed as a third string running back, has 10-first half carries for 100-yards and repeatedly got good gains right up the middle. He had a brief stint with the Texans last year in camp.

Schemed or not, the Texans have to be better at lining up and stopping the run. Allowing 120 yards on 14 carries can undo a whole lot, no matter how good the offense may be.

A few other developments of note from the first 30 minutes:

The Texans drove to their touchdown thanks to an unnecessary roughness penalty against defensive end Will Smith, but they were opportunistic enough to turn it into a touchdown drive. Runs in the red zone have been a big theme. Steve Slaton had consecutive carries once they broke the 20, for 2 yards and 9 yards, and they sure seemed to set up the smart touchdown play. Matt Schaub offered a play action fake to Slaton going left, wheeled to roll right and threw a sneaky little pass back a bit to the middle. David Anderson collected it and hurried across the goal line. Just the sort of thing they need to be able to create down there.

A Gary Kubiak challenge backfired. On a second-and-3 from the Texans' 9-yard line, Antonio Smith forced Drew Brees to double clutch and Mario Williams sacked him. The ball came out and Smith recovered, but officials ruled he was down. Kubiak challenged looking for a sack and a fumble recovery. Instead, referee Bill Leavy came back saying Brees was beginning to tuck the ball and thus it was incomplete. Never mind the fumble recovery, the Texans didn't even get a sack. The next play was an easy TD toss against a busted coverage.

A few more quick impressions:

  • Weakside linebacker Xavier Adibi set up a scenario where New Orleans missed a field goal with a great hit on Devery Henderson just as a Drew Brees pass arrived on a third-and-6 from the Texans' 9.

  • Tight end Joel Dreessen figured to lose out when the team drafted James Casey, but made two nice catches for 33 yards.

  • I'm hoping the Texans get a stop or two just so we can see if Andre Davis will get to return a punt or two. I thought he was efficient with a 20 yard average on four kick returns before the half. (Nope, Jacoby Jones just fair caught a punt early in the third.)

  • Dan Orlovsky continues to look uncomfortable. He had a good chance to get it to 14-14 before the half, but double clutched or pumped, then threw flat-footed and saw a wobbly pass that had little chance of getting to Jones collected by defensive back Jabari Greer.