S Jairus Byrd: The veteran safety had his first interception in two years with the Saints, snagging an overthrown pass by Houston QB Brian Hoyer and temporarily stopping the bleeding when the Saints were down 14-0 in the second quarter. Byrd also played a key role Sunday in shadowing dangerous Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins for much of the day, essentially double-teaming him an estimated 70 percent of the time. Hopkins caught only five passes for 36 yards with zero touchdowns, though all that extra attention left some other guys wide open at times.
K Kai Forbath: For one thing, he scored all of the Saints’ points on Sunday -- the first time a kicker has accomplished that for the Saints in the Sean Payton-Drew Brees era. Even more impressively, he nailed a 57-yard field goal late in the first half, crushing his previous career long of 50 yards. The field goal was a gutsy call with the Saints trailing 14-3 at the time, and Forbath delivered.
RB Mark Ingram: It didn’t amount to much, but Ingram had a few moments when he provided a spark for an offense that badly needed it Sunday, including a 29-yard run, a 16-yard run and a 17-yard catch. He finished with 52 rushing yards on nine carries and 45 receiving yards on six catches.
QB Drew Brees: This was one of the most disappointing performances of Brees’ 10 years in New Orleans, as the Saints failed to score a touchdown for the first time since he arrived in 2006. For three quarters, Brees barely could get a drive started (he didn’t reach 100 passing yards until the final minute of the third quarter). Then he couldn’t finish a drive in the fourth quarter, with an interception and a fourth-and-2 stop inside the red zone. Brees finished 25-of-44 for 228 yards, zero TDs and one pick.
Entire offensive line: How can I single out just one guy on a day when Texans DE J.J. Watt beat both Terron Armstead and Andrus Peat for sacks and beat Zach Strief to force an intentional grounding call? The Saints also struggled early in the run game and the screen-passing game, gaining a total of minus-4 yards on their first four run plays and minus-4 yards in their first four screen attempts. Peat also was flagged twice, once for holding and once for a false start, in his debut as the starting left guard.
Sean Payton: He’s in charge of the offense that stunk in all of the areas I mentioned above. He also lost his bye-week mojo. The Saints won five straight games after the bye from 2009-2013. Then last year they came out sizzling after the bye and played great at Detroit before blowing the game in the final minutes. This year, however, they couldn’t have started worse, falling down 14-0 in the blink of an eye. No one expected things to get worse after the team seemingly had hit rock bottom at Washington two weeks ago and fired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. But they did indeed get worse.