The Texans had just fallen to 0-2, but their rookie quarterback, C.J. Stroud, had just come off a historic day.
Stroud finished with 384 yards passing (going 30-of-47), the first two touchdown passes of his career and no interceptions — all coming behind a Texans’ offensive line that was missing four starters.
“Man, he’s special,” right guard Shaq Mason told ESPN.
Stroud’s 384 yards were second-most by a player age 21 or younger since the merger (1970), trailing only Matthew Stafford (422 yards) in 2009, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and it was the highest mark of any player in Week 2. Stroud also had the second-most passing yards by a Texans rookie in franchise history, behind only Deshaun Watson (402 yards) in 2017.
“There’s positives from C.J.’s game,” Mason said. “He has what it takes to take that leap and be a great QB in this league.”
Most of Stroud’s damage came in the fourth quarter. Houston scored the only points of the quarter, cutting the deficit from 31-10 behind Stroud’s 190 passing yards and his second touchdown throw on the day.
“C.J. is a competitor, and he shows that,” coach DeMeco Ryans said. “He continues to fight no matter what odds are stacked against him. No matter who’s in front of him, it doesn’t matter, and now we need everybody around him to continue to have that winning mindset and go play winning football.”
Stroud was pressured on 47% of his dropbacks and sacked six times, but he was proud of how the Texans never game up.
“I feel like I did OK,” Stroud said. “Of course, you always want to do better. Got to not take sacks in the red zone and got to score in the red zone. That definitely was the main reason why we didn’t put any points on the board. We were driving the ball pretty well, just got to finish those drives.
“I feel like, overall, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I think there’s hope. I think we showed that today that we’re going to fight, and we’re not just going to turn around and lay down just because the score flips early. We’re going to keep fighting ’til the end.”
Both of Stroud’s touchdown passes came when he didn’t face pressure, and he went 22-of-28 for 287 yards with 10.3 yards per attempt when not pressured, according to Next Gen Stats.
Stroud wasn’t the only one with a career day, however.
Wide receiver Nico Collins went over 100 yards for the first time in his three-year career, finishing with seven catches for 146 yards and a touchdown, and rookie wide receiver Tank Dell, a third-round pick, caught his first touchdown and finished with 72 yards.
“We had to make some moves on offense [in the second half], and we’re just trying to execute and make plays,” Collins said. “C.J. was going through his reads and was dicing them up.”
The Texans also struggled to get the run game going, as they rushed for only 52 yards on 26 carries, which put most of the onus on Stroud and the pass game.
“He showed poise, he’s getting better week by week, and we can see it on the field,” running back Dameon Pierce Pierce said. “We just got to do a better job of keeping him protected. He was the No. 2 pick in the draft for a reason. He’s a great player, and he has a great arm.”