HOUSTON (AP) — Maybe the critics will quiet down a bit now.
Much-maligned end Mario Williams led a Houston defense that allowed no second half points, and Andre Johnson returned for 120 yards receiving and a touchdown to help the Texans to a 23-10 win over the error-prone New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
Williams, booed when he was picked first over Reggie Bush in the 2006 draft, sacked Brees, had a forced fumble, several hurries and finished with six tackles.
“To me, we’re playing the Saints, we’re not playing one person,” Williams said. “We had to stop the run and keep us in the game, but it wasn’t like we were sitting there playing (only) Reggie.”
Bush, drafted second that year, had 15 carries for 34 yards, 12 catches for 70 yards and two fumbles. He called the fumble he lost a “bad call.”
“I definitely made a lot of mistakes in this game,” Bush said. “Whether it was a fumble or not, that was definitely a mistake, there were definitely some dropped passes that hurt us, some mental errors we’ve got to correct.”
The Texans (5-5) scored 17 points before halftime and stayed on top with tough defense in the second half that kept the Saints (4-6), who had three fumbles and two interceptions, scoreless. This is the best record Houston has had after 10 games and was its second straight win.
The Saints have lost two in a row since wining four straight.
Johnson had missed the last seven games with a knee sprain, but was back to form Sunday. He got in front of Jason David for a 73-yard touchdown pass early in the first quarter to put Houston ahead 7-3. Johnson pointed to the crowd as he entered the end zone and then jumped in the stands for congratulations from the fans.
“The cornerback bit on the run,” Johnson said. “When I saw him bite on it, I was like, ‘touchdown.’”
Houston’s Heisman Trophy-winning running back Ron Dayne, who won the award in 1999, had 21 carries for 89 yards. Dayne, who had his second big rushing game playing for the injured Ahman Green, was excited he outrushed Bush, who also won the Heisman.
“I wish I would have scored because I would have did the Heisman pose,” the normally stoic Dayne said with a laugh.
Early in the fourth quarter, Eric Johnson tipped a pass from Brees that was intercepted by Morlon Greenwood to give Houston the ball at the 38. It was the second time in the game Eric Johnson tipped a pass that was intercepted.
“It’s unacceptable,” Eric Johnson said. “It’s not something I’m used to. To feel like you let your whole team down, really the whole city down, it’s a feeling that just kills you.”