CJ Stroud had himself a day. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.
HOUSTON (AP) — Rookie C.J. Stroud threw for five touchdowns and a rookie-record 470 yards to lift Houston Texans to a 39-37 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a wild back-and-forth game on Sunday.
Baker Mayfield put the Buccaneers on top with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Cade Otton with 46 seconds left.
But the Texans (4-4) drove down the field and Stroud found Tank Dell in the end zone with 6 seconds left to give the Texans the lead.
Stroud kneeled instead of attempting the 2-point conversion with kicker Kaʻimi Fairbairn out with a quadriceps injury. The Buccaneers fumbled on the final play to give Houston the victory.
A 26-yard reception by Dell, who had 114 yards receiving, got the Texans within striking distance before Stroud found Dell again to complete the come-from-behind victory.
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He helped carry Houston’s offense on a day when running back Dameon Pierce sat out with an ankle injury and the Texans managed just 53 yards rushing.
Stroud led the Texans to touchdowns on their first three possessions of the second half to put them on top 30-23
The Bucs tied it on a 1-yard run by Rachaad White before running back Dare Ogunbowale nailed a tiebreaking 29-yard field goal to put Houston on top 33-30 with about nine minutes to go. He handled the kickoff duties in the second half with kicker Kaʻimi Fairbairn out with a quadriceps injury. But Houston went for 2 on each of its three second-half touchdowns, before Ogunbowale made the big field goal.
He’s the first non-kicker or punter to make a field goal since Wes Welker did it on Oct. 10, 2004, for the Dolphins against New England.
Tampa Bay extended its lead to 20-10 on a 49-yard field goal by Chase McLaughlin early in the third quarter.
Brown took a short pass from Stroud and dashed 75 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the next drive to cut the lead. The Texans attempted a 2-point conversion with Fairbairn out. But Stroud was intercepted by Joe Tryon-Shoyinka leave the Bucs up 20-16.
McLaughlin added a 55-yard field goal to push it to 23-16 with 9½ minutes left in the third.
Schultz caught a 26-yard pass on third-and-11 to extend Houston’s next possession. Stroud then hit Dell in the corner of the end zone for a 29-yard TD that cut the lead to 23-22. The 2-point conversion failed when Stroud’s throw to Dell fell short.
Schultz grabbed a 9-yard pass for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter and Stroud ran for the 2-point conversion to put the Texans up 30-23 before White’s fourth-quarter score. A 53-yard reception by Mike Evans set up that score.
The Texans took a 7-3 lead when Stroud connected with Nico Collins on a 14-yard score with about nine minutes left in the first quarter.
Mayfield connected with Otton on a 3-yard TD pass to put Tampa Bay on top 10-7.
Mayfield threw a 9-yard pass to White on third down to get the Buccaneers to the 1. White waltzed into the end zone on the next play to push the lead to 17-7 with about nine minutes until halftime.
The Texans cut the lead to 17-10 on a 50-yard field goal by Fairbairn with five minutes left in the second quarter.
Schultz fumbled after a reception on Houston’s first drive, and it was recovered Antoine Winfield Jr. on the Houston 42. The Buccaneers took a 3-0 lead on a 35-yard field goal by McLaughlin.
Buccaneers: CB Jamel Dean left in the first quarter with a concussion. … DB Josh Hayes left in the third quarter to be evaluated for a concussion. … Houston S M.J. Stewart injured a shoulder in the second quarter. … DT Hassan Ridgeway left in the third with an ankle injury. … LB Jake Hansen injured his hand in the third. … WR John Metchie left in the second half with a rib injury.
Bucanneers: Host Tennessee next Sunday.
Texans: Visit Bengals next Sunday.
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.