Texans able to escape despite Stroud’s uncharacteristic day

HOUSTON — Finding ways to overcome adversity has been the theme for the Houston Texans this season.

Whether it was missing four starters on the offensive line against the Pittsburgh Steelers and still capturing a 30-6 win in Week 4 or escaping with a game-winning drive in the last seconds against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 9, the Texans have dealt with obstacles.

Week 10 against the Cincinnati Bengals was no different.

The Texans pulled out another last-second win, 30-27, after blowing a 10-point lead with under four minutes left in the game. Quarterback C.J. Stroud conducted a game-winning drive with kicker Matt Ammendola drilling a 38-yard field goal in his debut with the team.

“So proud of our guys for finding a way to win,” coach DeMeco Ryans said. “We talked about this on Saturday night, just doing whatever it takes, finish every snap. I told the guys it comes down to the last snap. We still found a way to finish, so I’m really proud of the way our guys fought. I’m proud of the plays that they made to help us win that game. We have to play cleaner, and there were a lot of mistakes that we made to make the game close. There are things we can clean up, and it’s better to clean them up after a win.”

Stroud’s ball security has been among the best this season. Despite throwing for 356 yards and scoring rushing and passing touchdowns, the rookie — who came into the game with only three turnovers (one interception and two fumbles) — had his first multiple-turnover game, as he had an ill-timed interception and two lost fumbles.

The Texans (5-4) only had five turnovers coming into Week 10, but they still found a way to win despite the three Sunday.

“These types of games come down to the last minute,” Stroud said. “It’s hard to win in the NFL. It’s a great Bengals team over there, and they prove it week in and week out. We came in with the mindset that we won’t be denied, and that was huge for us.”

With 3:41 remaining and a 27-17 lead, Stroud was intercepted by Cam Taylor-Britt, who returned it to the Texans’ 4-yard line. The Bengals scored a touchdown two plays later and were able to get down to the Texans’ 7-yard line with 1:53 remaining after a three-and-out by Houston. The Texans were able to hold Cincinnati to a field goal, which set up the game-winning drive.

“No one wavered on our sideline, and that’s what I love,” Ryans said. “I love the resolve of our team. Everyone believed that we were going to win, everyone put in the work and made the plays to help us win this game. It starts with the confidence that you have to have to win these tight games. Also, knowing that we got guys. We have CJ, receivers, and Noah [Brown] stepped up and had a big game. Guys stepped up and made big plays.”

Ryans has enforced a no-excuse mindset in his first season as a head coach and preached finding ways to win no matter the obstacles.

The Texans were without their leading receiver Nico Collins (groin), their leading rusher Dameon Pierce (ankle), down to their fourth-string center and without starting safety Jimmie Ward (hamstring). Kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn was placed on injured reserve Saturday with a quad injury and Ammendola was elevated to the active roster.

The Texans’ two starting cornerbacks, Derek Stingley Jr. (hamstring) and Steven Nelson (neck), were on a pitch count as they worked back from injury.

Still, Brown was able to set a career-high for the second week in a row with just his second 100-yard game since being selected in the seventh round of the 2017 draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He finished with eight catches for 172 yards. And Ammendola was perfect on the day, going 3 for 3 on both field-goal attempts and PATs.

“Matt stepped in and did an unbelievable job for us,” Ryans said. “He’s a veteran kicker who’s been there before and done it before. We’re happy to have him. The confidence that we had in him and his range, he nailed it.”

And then there was Devin Singletary, who was able to give a spark to one of the league’s worst rushing attacks (29th) coming into the week. He became the first Texan to rush for over 100 yards this season with a career-high 150 and scored his first touchdown as a Texan.

“Man, it was a wild wind of emotions on the back end of the game,” Singletary said. “Guys stayed poised. We got a bunch of dogs. All we ever needed was a chance. That’s all we can ask for, and we were able to come out on top.”

The win put the Texans over .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2019, and they are now one game behind the Jacksonville Jaguars (6-3) in the AFC South heading into Sunday’s home matchup against the Arizona Cardinals (1 p.m. ET, NRG Stadium, CBS).

It was all topped by Stroud continuing to push the rookie threshold for a quarterback. His 826 yards the last two games is the second-most ever for a rookie, and he’s already tied for the most games with at least 350 yards passing for a rookie (three) after Sunday. He’s also not just just good for a rookie, as he leads the NFL in passing yards per game with 291.8.

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