In the chaos that is the final two minutes of a game, a confident leader must emerge in the huddle.
Houston Texans coach DeMeco Ryan knows that it starts with the quarterback, and the first-year head coach knows what kind of answer he will get when he calls on C.J. Stroud.
"The thing about C.J. is the calmness in the chaos," Ryans said after the Texans beat the Cincinnati Bengals. "He doesn't waver. He's confident that he's going to make plays and the moment's not too big for him."
In back-to-back weeks, first at home and now on the road, Stroud has been called upon to orchestrate a game-winning drive. The first, against Tampa Bay in an energetic NRG Stadium, with just 46 seconds left on the clock. The second, this weekend in the unfriendly confines of Paycor Stadium, with 1:33 remaining.
Both ended in Texans victories.
"You want to win tight games, you've got to have a quarterback who can make those big-time plays to put you in position to win those big-time games," Ryans said.
The last two weeks, Stroud has passed for 826 yards and six touchdowns, while completing 65% of his passes with just one interception.
Stroud is the only NFL rookie in the last 40 years to lead consecutive game-winning drives in the final two minutes of regulation.
The interception, which came on Sunday, was just the second of his career, and after it Stroud went to Ryans and said, 'we got you'.
Again exuded that confidence."I let him know I've got your back, I know I made a mistake," Stroud said. "That one play doesn't define me and I'm going to go prove myself again."
Ryans responded to Stroud with: 'I trust you.'
Two drives later was the game-winning series, in which Stroud and company got new kicker Matt Ammendola into field goal range with just five seconds left. Ammendola stepped up and won the game, nailing a 38-yarder to make the score 30-27.
"[C.J.]'s played in a lot of big games at Ohio State," Ryans said. "He's been under the bright lights before. He's made big plays. So, he doesn't get wide-eyed when the moment comes."