Testaverde could have last hurrah in Houston

Updated: October 18, 2003, 1:15 AM ET

HOUSTON -- If Vinny Testaverde's start in Houston on Sunday turns out to be his last, he might not have picked a better place to make it.

The 17-year veteran's 200th career game comes against a Houston defense that has hemorrhaged points -- only three teams have given up more -- and is ranked dead last against the pass.

Perfect setup, right?

"You don't look at it that way," Testaverde said. "I mean every team in the league is so close in ability and talent that your week of preparation is the same for everybody. So you never take anyone lightly, especially in our case.

"We're 1-4 and trying to get things turned around here."

Testaverde returned to a starting role when Chad Pennington dislocated his left wrist during preseason. Pennington is healthy enough to serve as the emergency quarterback against Houston (2-3) and could assume the reins the following week against Philadelphia.

In the meantime, Testaverde is happy to get at least one more chance to play.

"Approaching my 40th birthday, I still feel like I can contribute to help my team win football games," Testaverde said. "Chad will be back soon and I know that, but at the moment I'm in here playing and I have to help my team win this week."

He'll be facing essentially the same Texans defense Steve McNair riddled for 421 yards passing as the Titans won 38-17 last week. Now as then, Houston likely will be without cornerback Aaron Glenn, who went to two Pro Bowls in eight seasons with the Jets.

Houston's other cornerback, Marcus Coleman, spent six years with the Jets before he and Glenn returned to their home state in the 2002 expansion draft. Coleman is among the league's interception leaders with four, but is part of a defense that's been vulnerable to big plays.

"The only thing we can do is go back and prepare the same way and prepare more," Coleman said. "We need to make sure we tackle well and try to contain them."

Making matters worse for the Texans' embattled secondary, the big guys up front have been unable to pressure opposing quarterbacks all season, and the Jets are expert pass protectors, allowing four sacks in five games.

It's become a sore point in Houston's locker room. Usually loquacious defensive end Gary Walker at first refused to discuss the issue before reporters pressed him.

"We just have to get back to the way we were playing last year," said Walker, who reached the Pro Bowl with his success as a pass rusher and run stopper last season. "Whatever that is going to take we have to figure it out and figure it out in a hurry."

Lost in the Texans' defensive problems -- they haven't held a foe under 20 points yet -- is an offense blooming with David Carr at the controls and rookie Andre Johnson making highlight-film plays at receiver. Another rookie, tailback Domanick Davis, will play an expanded role Sunday as coach Dom Capers has grown impatient with free agent acquisition Stacey Mack's lack of production.

"Guys earn playing time by performance and what they've done," Capers said. "Domanick has earned playing time, so you will be seeing more of Domanick."

They'll all face a defense sending mixed signals as it heads south. An improving line registered seven sacks last week in New York's first win, 30-3 against Buffalo, but is playing with a patchwork secondary missing safety Jon McGraw and cornerback Donnie Abraham.

New York coach Herman Edwards acknowledges his defense relies on its front four to make up for lapses behind it.

"When you build your defense, you build it with your defensive line first," Edwards said. "I think we have a pretty good defensive line."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index