Tate, a second-round pick in 2010, rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown in his first game action in more than a year, and Arian Foster ran for two more scores in Houston's 27-14 win over the Saints.
Tate broke his ankle in the first preseason game last year, had surgery and went on injured reserve. He's missed several practices in a training camp this year with a hamstring injury, and Kubiak began to worry that Tate wasn't getting enough snaps to be ready for the regular season.
But Tate, vying for the backup role behind Foster, told Kubiak that he'd be ready for Saturday's game, and showed enough in Thursday's practice to convince his coach.
"I was excited, we all are," Kubiak said. "It's been a rough go for him, and he's missed a lot of time. He came and saw me and said, `Coach, I'm going to play against New Orleans. I've just got to get this thing right.' He was ready to go and played extremely well."
Tate had a 4-yard touchdown and gained 43 yards on another run in the second quarter.
"I was just excited, to be honest," Tate said. "It's been over a year since I have been out there on the field, so I wasn't really thinking about anything. I was just excited and just thinking, `keep going, keep going.' I didn't want to come out of the game for anything."
The Texans scored on their first four possessions and produced 323 yards and 19 first downs in the first half. Houston finished with 436 total yards, a franchise record for a preseason game. Matt Schaub completed 12 of 16 passes for 163 yards and Andre Johnson caught four passes for 100 yards for Houston (2-0).
The Saints' defense took a step backward after allowing only 234 yards in last week's 24-3 win over San Francisco.
"They (the Texans) did a good job with their execution and they whipped us," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "It was pretty evident. So we've got a lot of work to do."
Drew Brees went 7 for 14 for 109 yards in a little more than quarter of action for the Saints (1-1). Chase Daniel threw a long TD pass to rookie Joseph Morgan and 2011 first-round pick Mark Ingram had a touchdown run in the first half for New Orleans.
The Saints produced 331 yards, but gave away three turnovers.
"It was just far too many inconsistencies for our liking," Payton said. "I thought we weren't as ready maybe as I thought we were the last week we played. I thought we were sluggish and I thought they looked sharp."
Houston's defense played well again in its second outing employing Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme. The Texans had seven sacks in the opener against the Jets, and defensive end Antonio Smith hit Brees on the Saints' first series, causing a fumble. Mario Williams pounced in the loose ball at the Houston 28.
Schaub went 4 for 4 on the Texans' first drive, including a 23-yarder to Johnson. Foster ran the last 15 yards of the drive on three carries, scoring with 6:04 left in the first quarter.
Schaub started Houston's next series with a play-action fake and a perfect 48-yard pass down the middle to Johnson. On second down, Foster burst through a big hole, sidestepped safety Paul Oliver and ran into the end zone.
"Whenever a team gets you early and punctures you, we've got to be able to stop the bleeding," Saints safety Roman Harper said. "We did not stop them like we needed to, did not force field goals like we needed to."
Brees completed a 43-yard pass to Robert Meachem to the Texans' 8, and Ingram scored on fourth down from 1 to make it 14-7.
Neil Rackers kicked a 49-yard field goal for a 17-7 Houston lead. Daniel replaced Brees on the Saints' second series of the second quarter, and promptly threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to Morgan, who beat Houston safety Danieal Manning on the play.
LB DeMeco Ryans (elbow), RB Steve Slaton (hamstring), CB Johnathan Joseph (groin) and RB Derrick Ward (concussion) were among the inactive players for Houston. ... CB Tracy Porter (right knee) sat out for the Saints. ... Before the game, the Texans announced that new giant sign logos will be placed around Reliant Stadium in time for the regular-season opener against Indianapolis on Sept. 11. Reliant president Jason Few says the new signs are cosmetic only, and won't affect the partnership between Reliant and NRG Energy, which began two years ago. ... Kubiak said G Kasey Studdard had ankle surgery on Friday and is likely done for the year. ... Payton said DT Aubrayo Franklin sprained a right knee ligament and RB Chris Taylor left the game with a right foot injury.