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Defense sets sights on Tebow


The Texans' defense has two games remaining. Their backs aren't against the wall. Actually, they are behind the wall. They have the worst pass defense in the NFL. They've been tormented all season.

Now, they must face the legend of Tim Tebow. True, Tebow has performed most of his magic in college and has yet to prove himself at the pro level with the Denver Broncos. Still, in his first pro start last week, the rookie left-hander ignited a spark on a team that's had more turmoil than the Texans.

"Watching all the highlights from last week, we're like, 'So now we've got to go against this guy,'" defensive tackle Amobi Okoye said. "He's a heck of a player. I actually was one of his supporters coming out. I felt like he probably could still do the same things in the NFL. But not Sunday, though. So, Sunday I won't be supporting at all."

The Texans want to put together a good defensive performance to help soothe memories of a bad season. They are allowing 275 passing yards per game and have a history of slow starts and furious finishes that have ended in seven losses in their last eight games.

They blanked the last rookie starter they faced with a 20-0 victory over Tennessee and quarterback Rusty Smith, making his first pro start.

Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner at Florida, might be a tougher deal.

"I watched him play a little bit in the preseason and they had been spot-playing him and then he goes and starts last week," coach Gary Kubiak said. "I was very impressed; very competitive, made plays off-schedule. I was impressed, the way he threw the ball.

"He didn't throw a bunch, but when he threw it, he threw it well. He's a winner and brought some juice to their team last week."

Cornerback Kareem Jackson, the Texans' first-round pick last April, faced Tebow last season in the Southeastern Conference championship game. Jackson's Alabama Crimson Tide beat Tebow and the Gators 32-13.

"He's a great player and everybody knows what he did at the college level," Jackson said. "I'm looking forward to it."

Jackson recognized Tebow's effect on the Broncos. It's what Tebow did in college.

"He's a competitor, he's a winner," Jackson said. "Those guys that played with him at Florida fed off his energy. I would assume it will be the same situation that he's in now. I'll be looking forward to it and it'll be three years in a row for me."

What did the Tide do to limit Tebow in last year's SEC title game?

"Last year was my second time going against him," Jackson said. "So I just watched film on him from the year before in the game that they beat us. I think that gave me an advantage going against them."

The Broncos are playing out the season with no hope of the playoffs, just like the Texans. There was a perception that the Texans quit in last week's loss to the Titans.

Don't say that to linebacker Brian Cushing.

"No, there is no truth to that at all," Cushing said. "If they think that, they could come and watch the film with us and I think they'll agree that it wasn't. There are 11 guys playing hard on both sides of the ball. There's no question about it.

"There is zero quit in this team, not at all."

They'll be going after Tebow like a playoff spot was on the line.

Tebow completed a modest 8-of-16 passes for 138 yards and one touchdown pass at Oakland. He also ran 40 yards for a touchdown. It was the longest by a quarterback in team history.

"He's a guy that's big," cornerback Jason Allen said. "We've got to make sure we wrap up with him and understand that he can be a threat in the running game as well. They're going to do things to his strengths, things that he's good at and things that he's been doing throughout his career at Florida.

"I think that's the biggest thing is we're going to tackle well and give him different looks and try to confuse him as much as possible, get a little pressure and do the things that like I said we're coached to do."

Tebow might develop into a top pro quarterback. The Texans don't want it to start against them.

"We've definitely gone back and watched some more film on him because last week was his first start," Okoye said. "We've watched more film on him from the preseason and other games that he's been in to just kind of see what type of player he's evolved into."

The Texans are trying to bring a disappointing season to a winning conclusion.

"I feel good about, I would say, the character of this defense, because it had been beat down it had been drug through the mud," defensive end Antonio Smith said. "We keep fighting. We keep working. I ain't seen nobody not work or nobody not try to put their best foot out there to try to figure out what we need to do to get this thing won, to get wins on the team and especially on the defense, to have games that we have won instead of the offense always bailing us out.

"There's so much talent on this team. I've said it at the beginning of the season. I'll say it right now. There's so much talent on this defense alone, I don't know how we're not at the top in defense."

The Texans' glass is no longer half full. They just don't want to finish with it empty.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports.

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