Sean Pendergast

NFL Week 9: - Texans 39, Buccaneers 37 — Four Winners, Four Losers

C.J. Stroud led an historic come back on Sunday afternoon, 39-37 over the Tampa Bay Bucs.
C.J. Stroud led an historic come back on Sunday afternoon, 39-37 over the Tampa Bay Bucs. Photo by Eric Sauseda
Coming into Sunday afternoon, we knew that C.J. Stroud was a pretty good NFL quarterback, not even by rookie standards, but by the standards that the veterans around the league have established. This was known. However, to win the ultimate prize in the NFL, chances are you need more than just "good" at quarterback. You need "THAT DUDE."

You need someone who has no flinch in the biggest moment, someone who makes opposing teams pay for leaving too much time on the clock at the end of games. On Sunday, Baker Mayfield and the Tampa Bay Bucs scored a touchdown with 46 seconds left in the game to take a 37-33 lead on the Texans. On Sunday, that was too much time to allow C.J. Stroud to slice and dice his way through 75 yards of the NRG Stadium turf.

Stroud needed just 40 seconds, as he hit fellow rookie Tank Dell in the end zone for a game winning touchdown. Final score — Texans 39, Bucs 37. Houston, you have THAT DUDE. His name is C.J. Stroud. More on him later, as we get to winners and losers from one of the wildest days in the history of NRG Stadium.

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Ogunbowale was pressed into emergency kicker duty.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
4. Dare Ogunbowale
Oh yeah, did I mention that the Texans played the entire second half with their third string running back as their placekicker? Their regular kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn evidently suffered a quad injury late in the first half, and that pressed Ogunbowale into emergency duty, which included several kickoffs, as well as a 29-yard field goal which gave the Texans a 33-30 lead, and ultimately gave them points they could not do without. This was one of the craziest things I've seen in my nearly two decades of covering the team. After the game, on my postgame show, Ogunbowale divulged that he played soccer as a kid, and he messes around kicking field goals at practice. Now, he's in the Texans historical stat book, 1 for 1 as a placekicker.
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Dalton Schultz recovered from an early fumble to have a career day, with 10 catches.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
3. Dalton Schultz
Schultz was coming off one of the worst games of his pro career last week, with just two catches for five yards (and several missed blocks) against the Carolina Panthers. Sunday started off rough, too, when Schultz turned the ball over with a fumble on his first catch of the day. The rest of the way, Schultz bounced back, and more than made up for it, with a total of 10 catches for 130 yards, and a huge 4th down  touchdown in the fourth quarter.
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Tank Dell had two touchdowns on the afternoon.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
2. Tank Dell
Man, this kid is special. S9nce the start of training camp, all Dell does is get open, and on Sunday, he was open a TON. In the first half, Stroud missed his friend Dell on several "must have" throws, throws that should be a mere flick of the wrist for Stroud. However, when it mattered, Stroud and Dell came up huge, highlighted by Dell's 26-yard catch on the final drive, the penultimate play to his 15 yard touchdown that won the game. This combo of Stroud and Dell is just eight games in, but Texan fans should be ridiculously excited about the future with these two.
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Stroud had 470 yards passing and five touchdown passes, a record breaking performance for a rookie.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
1. Texans fans starved for "THAT DUDE"
I could probably just cut and paste the opening to this article and let you read it again, but let's fathom for a moment what C.J. Stroud accomplished on Sunday. He generated 29 points in the second half, in a game where the opposing defense pretty much knew the Texans were throwing the ball, because they're horrific at running the ball. He ran his season totals to 14 touchdowns against just ONE interception, and he gives the Texans a chance to win every game on their schedule the rest of the way. He wanted to be more explosive on offense this week, was very vocal about it, and put up a record day for a rookie. AS the kids say, "HE IS HIM."


4. Texans backers in Vegas
The Texans opened the week, and closed right before kickoff, as a 2.5 point favorite. SO if they won the game by a field goal, Texans bettors go home happy. Once Fairbairn went out with an injury, any semblance of scoring normalcy went out the window. The Texans were going for two points after all of their second half touchdowns, making one of three. However, it's the final touchdown that was salt in the wounds of bettors, as the Texans, up 39-37, and without a real place kicker, chose to take a knee on the extra point attempt, rather than risk a fluky turnover or blocked kick that the Bucs could return for a tying two points. Good strategy by DeMeco Ryans, but a painful beat for Texans backers.
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The Texans running game continued to struggle, with just 53 yards on 17 carries.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
3. Texans non existent run game
The Texans had no Dameon Pierce on Sunday, as he continued to nurse an ankle injury he suffered against Carolina. It didn't really matter, one way or the other. They haven't been able to run the ball with Pierce, and they stunk without him on Sunday, accruing 53 yards on 17 very painful (to watch) carries. Credit offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik, who seems to have recognized that forcing this team to try to run is putting Stroud in bad down and distance situations, and more importantly, taking the ball out of his hands. Stroud needs to be the focal point of everything.
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To'o To'o and the linebackers struggled once again versus opposing tight ends.
Photo by Eric Sauseda
2. Henry To'o To'o
Okay, I an kind of picking on the rookie To'o To'o who was the closest Texan to Buccaneers tight end Cade Otten on both of the tight end's touchdowns. Maybe this bullet point should be "whichever Texans are responsible for covering tight ends," because they stunk again. This is definitely something that falls on the Texans linebackers. Otten had six catches for 70 yards, and two touchdowns. In the aftermath of the win, it's worth noting that the Texans leave this game with major injury issues on defense, with Jimmie Ward, M.J. Stewart, and Hassan Ridgeway all leaving with injuries.

1. Fans who left with 46 seconds to go in the game, and the Texans trailing, 37-33
Shame on you. Don't you ever doubt C.J. Stroud's ability to generate miracles ever again. Days like today are special, and that cheer you heard from outside the stadium should pierce your gut like a sword. Hope it was nice beating traffic.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at, on Instagram at, and like him on Facebook at
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast