OK, so they were going against a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start. OK, so the Tennessee Titans had more controversy and health issues than they could handle.
Don't say a word about that to the Texans. The beleaguered Texans defense played its best game of the season and they'll take it regardless of the circumstances. After what's happened this season, they feel a bow is well deserved.
Cornerback Glover Quin, who contributed to game-losing touchdowns the past two weeks, breathed the biggest sigh of relief of all. He intercepted three passes that helped the Texans register a 20-0 victory over the Titans. It was their second shutout in team history and gave the Texans new hope at 5-6.
"It's a great feeling," Quin said. "These last two weeks have been tough for us, the things we went through as a team and the things I went through as an individual. To come out and put a game together like this, not only to get the win but to get the shutout. I get my first career pick. It was a great day."
Two weeks ago, Quin slapped a pass into the hands of Jacksonville's Mike Thomas for the winning touchdown as time expired. Last week, Quin gave up the game-winning touchdown to Santonio Holmes that allowed the Jets to come back for a last minute victory.
Quin got his first pick early in the second quarter that set up Houston's first touchdown. His second came with 11:27 to play at the Texans' nine-yard line and he kept the shutout alive in the final minutes with his third interception at the Houston goal.
And to think, Quin played the game with a broken right hand.
"We should have broken his hand to start the season," coach Gary Kubiak said. "It must have leveled things out or something. He's a great kid. He plays hard. He came off a very humbling experience at Jacksonville. He handled it like a man. Good things happen to people that keep battling. That's what he's all about."
It was a theme spoken often in the post-game locker-room. The Texans' defense has been at or near the bottom of the league all season. Their pass defense has been especially horrid.
Rookie starter Rusty Smith passed for 138 yards and three interceptions. The Texans held Chris Johnson to a career low five yards on seven carries. His previous low was eight yards on 14 carries against the Bears his rookie year.
"We wanted to come out and get the monkey off our backs and finally play a good game," cornerback Kareem Jackson said. "We played together and had good results. We knew it was going to be a physical fight and we had to be ready for 60 minutes.
"We have to keep working. We've had one good game and we have five left. We have to keep working and turn this pass defense around. We're off to a good start."
"It lets us know we're going on the right path," Jackson said. "We're working hard every day to get better. To come out and have a game like today it lets us know that gives us more confidence every day. We're going to keep pushing."
Quin thanks the team for sticking by him.
"I beat myself up a lot because I want to win," Quin said. "Regardless of the situation, I want to be successful. I tried to do everything I could in my ability to play and I had great support from my teammates and my coaches. They kept believing in me and I kept believing in myself and in God. I knew it was going to come through and today it did."
Johnson, one of the elite runners in the NFL, spent a frustrating day trying to get the Titans jump-started amid big distractions. The Titans faced other distractions, too. There was the controversial exchange last week between quarterback Vince Young and coach Jeff Fisher. The Titans also must deal with the illness of offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, who is battling cancer.
"The biggest thing with a guy (Johnson) like that, you have to take away what he's good at," safety Bernard Pollard said. "You take away the outside, you close the gaps. You've got to do your job and I think we did that and we have to continue to do that. We've got to use this as momentum. It's do or die for us."
Defensive end Mario Williams sacked Smith on Tennessee's first offensive play of the game, setting the tone for the game.
"It's great to come out and make a play and we tried to feed off that," Williams said. "That's about all we could do, play assignment football against Johnson. He makes big plays off of guys being out of position so we just played assignment football."
The Texans started the season 4-2 and then lost four in a row. The way they lost the two previous games and the entire season was beginning to take a toll.
"We have to keep working. We've had one good game and we have five left. We have to keep working and turn this pass defense around. We're off to a good start," Quin said.
It couldn't come at a better time with the Texans facing a quick turnaround against the Eagles on Thursday night.
"We've been battling for so long," Pollard said. "This is something that we deserve. I said a couple of weeks ago good things come to people who work hard. I think we continued to grind and move forward. I'm so happy for this team and GQ. Everything we've gone through individually and as a team. I'm so proud of the way we've responded."
"We're going to play the best team in the NFL Thursday night and we're going to be ready to go."
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 teams.