CINCINNATI (AP) — C.J. Stroud keeps showing he is the most exciting rookie quarterback in the NFL since … well, since Joe Burrow.
Stroud, a former Ohio State quarterback and the second overall pick in this year’s draft by the Houston Texans, bested Burrow and ended a four-game win streak by the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
The 22-year-old threw for 356 yards and led a drive over the final 93 seconds that put Matt Ammendola in range for a game-winning 38-yard field goal as time ran out, and Houston beat Cincinnati 30-27. Ammendola had just been signed on Tuesday because Ka’imi Fairbairn suffered a quadriceps injury a week earlier.
Stroud directed a winning drive in the last minute for the second straight week for the Texans (5-4), who pulled out a wild 39-37 win over Tampa Bay when the rookie put together a 75-yard touchdown drive in the final 40 seconds.
“The thing about C.J. is just the calmness in the chaos,” Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said. “He doesn’t waver. He’s confident he’s going to make plays.”
That’s the kind of thing usually said about Burrow, the fourth-year quarterback known for his decision-making and late-game heroics.
Burrow also had a good day statistically — 347 yards passing and two touchdowns — but he threw back-to-back interceptions in the fourth quarter, one in the end zone, to kill the Bengals’ chances.
Cam Taylor-Britt intercepted Stroud with 3:41 remaining in the fourth quarter, and two plays later, Joe Mixon rushed for a 1-yard touchdown to cut Houston’s lead to 27-24.
But another opportunity for Cincinnati fell short when Tyler Boyd couldn’t hold on to Burrow’s pass in the end zone on third-and-goal with 1:39 left, and the Bengals (5-4) had to settle for a field goal by Evan McPherson to tie the game instead of taking the lead.
“That was a tough loss,” Burrow said. “I thought we were going to pull it out. We didn’t make a play at the end of the day. It’s disappointing.”
Stroud moved the Texans 55 yards in six plays to set up the game-winning field goal by Ammendola. The rookie connected with Dalton Schultz for 25 yards and Noah Brown for 22 yards on the decisive drive.
“(The Bengals) knew it would come down to the wire. We knew that, too,” Stroud said. “I just went to DeMeco and let him know, ‘Man, I got you, we’re going to win this game.’ He looked me right in the eye and said, ‘I’ll trust you.’”
Stroud was 23 for 39 passing, including a 6-yard touchdown pass to Tank Dell and an interception.
Brown finished with seven catches for a season-high 172 yards, and Devin Singletary rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries.
“I took a lot of big hits this game, but my O-line, they fought their tails off,” Stroud said. “I think that’s where we won the game, our O-line.”
Sheldon Rankins had three sacks for the Texans, who held Cincinnati to 66 rushing yards.
Cincinnati rallied after going down 20-7 on Singletary’s 6-yard run in the third quarter. A 50-yard field goal by McPherson and Burrow’s 64-yard touchdown pass to Ja’Marr Chase cut the deficit 20-17 by the end of the third. But Burrow wasted that momentum by throwing picks on the Bengals’ first two fourth-quarter possessions.
From the end of the first quarter to the beginning of the third, the Bengals punted five straight times.
“I felt like we just flipped in the second quarter,” said Trenton Irwin, who caught one of Burrow’s touchdown passes. “I don’t know what happened.”
Stroud became the fourth rookie in NFL history to compile at least 2,500 passing yards in his first nine starts. His 470 yards and five touchdowns in the win over Tampa Bay were rookie single-game records.
Cincinnati DE Trey Hendrickson went down with an unspecified injury in the fourth quarter but walked off with assistance from the medical staff.
Texans: Host Arizona next Sunday.
Bengals: At AFC North-leading Baltimore on Thursday night for a critical matchup.
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