- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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HOUSTON -- If Titans rookie quarterback Rusty Smith shredded the Texans Sunday at Reliant Stadium on Sunday, he would have gotten full credit.
“He could have ate us up, he made some very good throws,” Pollard said. “I’m not going to use it -- and I don’t want anybody else to use it -- as an excuse for why we beat Tennessee. We’ve got a rookie corner and a second-year corner. I’m just excited about what we did and we have to use this as momentum and go.”
A team that was giving up an average of 301 passing yards per game and was on pace to be the worst pass defense off all-time finally found the recipe for success. By limiting Tennessee and Smith to 138 yards through the air, the Texans dropped their average to 286.2 yards.
Against a team that has allowed an average passer rating of 109.2 this season, Smith posted a 26.7.
Houston shuffled its cornerbacks for the Titans, sticking with Glover Quin as the left side starter but using Jason Allen as the predominant guy on Randy Moss. Rookie Kareem Jackson played in Quin’s spot outside in the nickel as Quin moved to the slot.
Quin, who broke his right hand last week, had a career game with three interceptions of Smith. The first two Quin thefts were on very poor throws. The third came on a pass that was tipped by Texans linebacker Brian Cushing.
In his third game as a member of the Titans, Moss was targeted five times. He caught three passes for just 23 yards.
When the Titans claimed him off waivers from Minnesota, it was for games like this, against division teams like this, to take advantage of defenses like this. And it was anticipating a lot more impact than this -- as a guy whose mere presence would alter defensive alignments even when he was not targeted.
But the Texans appeared to give up nothing for how they attended to Moss. Chris Johnson was supposed to be the beneficiary of new space, and he had seven carries for 5 yards. The Titans gave up on the run game, netting 24 yards on 12 attempts.
Allen, a recent waiver claim himself, covered Moss with help over the top. The Titans maintained a stubborn reluctance to force the issue with the receiver.
How could a third-and-long throw deep into double coverage hurt when a punt was quick to follow? Tennessee, after all, had only nine first downs and converted just three-of-11 third down situations. The Titans held the ball for a paltry 20 minutes, 19 seconds.
“We did different disguises and gave them different looks,” Allen said. “We knew they had a young quarterback and we wanted to have him thinking. The guys up front definitely gave him different looks and pressure. You just don’t want to have a free read for him.”
The thoughtful Quin said he has beat himself up a lot over the course of the season. After a great opening day win over Indianapolis, the Texans have been known mostly for their pass defense woes.
He learned last Monday he had a break. While Quin said all week he would play, he was skeptical as he ran his own, non-scientific tests.
“I had it in a cast but I was kind of just hitting it on a wall, just tapping it a little bit because earlier in the week I would tap it with my hands and I would think, ‘Man, I don’t know,’” he said. “[Saturday night] I was kind of tapping it and I didn’t feel anything, I was moving my finger a little bit and it didn’t really hurt.”
Pregame pain killers and a cast put him in position to have a big game.
“No one time did I feel any pain,” he said. “I thought about it sometimes because it got caught in there a few times, but it was nothing really that I couldn’t take. With the adrenaline and the way we were playing, I didn’t feel that much pain that would cause me to not play anymore.”
Head coach Gary Kubiak has been a big backer of Quin from the very beginning. The team drafted him last year out of New Mexico with a fourth-round pick.
The way Quin’s season and week unfolded had the coach regretting he did not make one move earlier.
“We should have broke his hand at the start of the season,” Kubiak joked on a day the Texans could finally laugh.