HOUSTON (AP) — Down by four with less than a minute to go Sunday, rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud had complete confidence that he could rally the Houston Texans to a victory.
“Give me the ball,” he said. “Call the plays. I’m going to make the plays.”
Stroud threw for five touchdowns and a rookie-record 470 yards to lift the Texans to a 39-37 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a wild back-and-forth game.
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.
“His job was to beat the corner,” Stroud said. “And the Texans win. That drive — man it was special.”
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.
“That connection and that bond that Tank and C.J. have — it’s real,” coach DeMeco Ryans said. “You see it off the field, on the field, they have a true bond and it’s fun to watch those guys work together.”
Stroud, the second overall pick in the draft, 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.
“It was a gutsy performance from him,” Ryans said. “It wasn’t all clean but he gutted it out. He was tough in the pocket. Made some plays, made some big-time throws for us.”
Noah Brown had six catches for 153 yards and a touchdown and Dalton Schultz added 10 catches for 130 yards and a touchdown for the Texans.
Mayfield threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns and the Buccaneers (3-5) dropped their fourth straight game.
“It’s a devastating loss, no doubt about it,” Tampa Bay coach Todd Bowles said. “We’ve got to eat it. All of us feel the same way, especially me. I’ve been coaching a long time, I haven’t been involved in too many of these where it’s been back and forth like that and came down on the other end with a few things happening.”
Stroud led the Texans to touchdowns on their first three possessions of the second half to put them on top 30-23.
“C.J. Stroud doesn’t look like a rookie to me,” Mayfield said. “He’s so impressive, looks like a polished NFL quarterback. So, hats off to him. He played extremely, extremely well today.”
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 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.
“Dare, he’s truly the player of the game,” Ryans said. “For him stepping up the way he did for us was outstanding by him.”
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. … S Jimmie Ward injured his hamstring.
Bucanneers: Host Tennessee next Sunday.
Texans: Visit Bengals next Sunday.
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl