The Texans have won three straight games. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.
HOUSTON (AP) — Standout rookie C.J. Stroud threw for 336 yards with two touchdowns, and the Houston Texans overcame his season-high three interceptions to beat the Arizona Cardinals 21-16 on Sunday.
The Texans (6-4) have doubled their win total from last season and have won three games in a row for the first time since a nine-game streak in 2018.
The Cardinals (2-9) had a chance to win late. Kyler Murray threw a deep pass on fourth-and-8 that was intended for Marquise Brown, but Steven Nelson batted it down with 35 seconds left.
Houston didn’t score after halftime and Stroud was picked off on consecutive drives in the fourth quarter. He had thrown just two interceptions in his first nine games.
Houston rookie Tank Dell had a season-high 149 yards on eight receptions and set a franchise rookie record with his sixth touchdown catch.
Murray threw for 214 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his second game back after recovering from a torn ACL. He also rushed for 51 yards and a score.
The Cardinals failed to convert on fourth down with about 7 1/2 minutes to go to give the Texans the ball on their 45. But Stroud was intercepted again on the ensuing drive when Antonio Hamilton Sr. hopped in front of Dell on the 25.
Murray scored on a 1-yard run with about three minutes left in the third quarter to get the Cardinals within 21-16, but his run for the 2-point conversion was short.
The Cardinals were stopped on fourth-and-3 from the Houston 23 early in the fourth quarter. After a Houston punt, the Cardinals fumbled on the return and the Texans recovered at the Arizona 31.
Stroud was then intercepted in the end zone by Krys Barnes.
Stroud got a pass off under heavy pressure and found Dell in the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown that made it 21-10 just before halftime. Dell leaped into the crowd and was pulled into the stands where he stood among a group of cheering fans for a few seconds before returning to the field.
Soon, chants of “M-V-P! M-V-P!” rained down on Stroud, who has completely transformed this team just 10 games into his career.
The Cardinals took an early lead when Rondale Moore caught a 48-yard touchdown pass on their first drive.
Houston tied it when Stroud connected with Dalton Schultz on a 20-yard TD pass with about six minutes left in the first quarter.
Matt Prater’s 57-yard field goal put Arizona ahead again.
An 11-yard run by Devin Singletary gave Houston a 14-10 lead early in the second quarter. After the score, Stroud mimicked taking photos while the rest of the offense posed in the end zone.
Cardinals LB Kyzir White injured an elbow in the second quarter. ... NT Leki Fotu left with a hand injury in the second quarter. ... Hamilton injured his groin on the interception and was carted to the locker room.
Cardinals: Host the Los Angeles Rams next Sunday.
Texans: Host Jacksonville 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.