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C.J. Stroud battles through injury, throws for 384 yards and two TDs in loss to Colts

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Heading into his first home game, C.J. Stroud wasn't sure he could play.

The Texans No. 2 overall draft pick was dealing with a shoulder injury and listed as questionable for Sunday's contest against the Indianapolis Colts.

"I had a little pain here and there, but at the end of the day, I just wanted to play because I had the opportunity from God, man, just to be in a great city like Houston," Stroud said. "I wanted to play in the home opener and try to flip this thing around the right way by playing well. Yeah, it was ups and downs, but I feel like my guys around me, like they made me more positive as the week went on. They were telling me, man, if it happens, it happens. If not, just do whatever you can do, to not play if you're not feeling well. So I decided to play, and I feel like I did okay, of course you always want to do better."

In his second start, Stroud completed 30-of-47 passes for 384 yards for two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 103.5 passer rating. Stroud now has 58 pass completions through his first two career games. That's second in NFL history. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow began his career with 60 completions in 2020. The 21-year-old Stroud is also the only QB in NFL history to attempt 80 or more passes without an interception in his first two games.

"I thought C.J. did a really good job managing the offense," Head Coach DeMeco Ryans said. "He did a really good job. Guys around him played a little better. C.J. does it every week. He just built on what he did last week, continued to put the ball where we need it, make good decisions with the football. So I'm encouraged by C.J.'s play, and he got better this week."

Behind a battered offensive line missing four starters, including left tackle Laremy Tunsil and right tackle Tytus Howard, Stroud operated an offense that recorded 389 net yards (337 passing, 52 rushing). Despite being sacked six times, the rookie QB still managed to find wide receiver Nico Collins for seven catches totaling a team-high 146 yards and one touchdown, averaging 20.9 yards per catch. Stroud averaged 12.8 yards per throw in the 31-20 loss to the Colts.

With the offense operating with a quicker tempo this week under OC Bobby Slowik, Stroud feels he's definitely taken "a huge step from last week."

"I'm excited," Stroud said. "I'm not happy right now, of course, because we lost, but I definitely think that we've done a lot of good things on the offensive side of the ball and the defensive side of the ball as well. But once we play together as a team, watch out. I definitely think this team is ready to win, and we've just got to put it together -- both offense, defense, special teams coming together as one. So I'm excited."

The Texans head to Jacksonville next Sunday to face the Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field.

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