Texans rookie quarterback C.J.Stroud won the first edition of the Ohio State air show Sunday at Paycor Stadium when his long-ball game bested Pro Bowl quarterback Joe Burrow and the Bengals, 30-27, on a last-play field goal.
Burrow hooked up with slot receiver Tyler Boyd for a 64-yard catch-and-run to give them a first down at the Texans 7 with 1:53 left. But after Burrow got sacked by the rampaging tackle Sheldon Rankins on first down, he threw a dime to Boyd over the middle on third down and Boyd dropped it in the end zone. Evan McPherson then kicked a 31-yarder to tie it at 27 with 1:33 left.
But the Bengals defense couldn't get off the field on third-and-six as Stroud hit tight end Dalton Schultz for 25 yards over the middle. Then he hit wide receiver Noah Brown (a 178-yard day) for a 22-yard catch-and-run to set up emergency kicker Matt Amendola's winning 38-yard field goal as time and the Bengals' four-game winning streak ran out.
Buttressed by running back, Devin Singletary's 150 rushing yards on 30 carries, Stroud pitched eight completions of at least 20 yards (the four longest to Brown) and went for 356 in the game on 23 of 39 passing.
Burrow, who threw two fourth-quarter interceptions, fired back with 347 yards on 27 of 40.
Down 27-17, Bengals cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt came up with his fourth interception in five games (only Stroud's second) and his 30-yard return to inside the 5 set up a one-yard touchdown run by running back Joe Mixon to cut it to 27-24 with 3:18 left.
Burrow came in just as hot as Stroud himself with the NFL's best passer rating and completion percentage and second-most touchdown passes in the last four games and he didn't disappoint as he flirted with his eighth fourth-quarter comeback.
The Texans ends crashed on Burrow and the middle of the line stunted for one of their four sacks and McPherson cut the lead to 20-10 with three minutes left in the third quarter on a 50-yard field goal for his fifth 50 of the season.
But Burrow got back up to deliver a lightning strike. Just 2:40 after that, he hooked up with wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase for a 64-yard touchdown that made it 20-17 going into the fourth quarter.
It was vintage Burrow to Chase. As Chase, shrugging off the sore back that limited him in last week's practice to go for 124 yards, saw Burrow scrambling to his left, Chase broke off his route and shot between the safeties. Burrow squared up and floated a beauty to Chase at about the Texans 20 and he ran it in for the Bengals' longest pass play of the season before Boyd matched it.
But Stroud took just 2:23 to get it back and it all started with a familiar play. He went play-action, rolled out, and went back across the field to find the wide-open Noah Brown for 34 yards. It was Brown's fifth straight catch of at least 20 yards. Then three defensive backs couldn't bring down Singletary on an 11-yard gain, and on the next snap, Stroud walked in for an eight-yard touchdown run.
On the next series, Burrow tried to hit tight end Drew Sample on a seam route, and it was thrown slightly behind him and high, and safety DeAndre Houston-Carson picked it at the Bengals 20, only Burrow's fifth interception of the season. He threw his sixth on the next series with the Bengals at the Texans 14 with four minutes left. He tried to fit it into Boyd in the corner of the end zone, but he was double-covered and cornerback Shaquill Griffin caught it in front of Boyd.
After throwing a touchdown pass for the fifth straight opening drive, Burrow then oversaw four straight drives ending in punts and that included three straight three-and-outs to end a first half the Texans dominated in every way but the score. Houston led only 10-7 at the half even though they hammered the Bengals in total yards, 273-109. Burrow was able to get 34 more yards through the air after the first drive and ended the half 14 of 18 for 94 yards.
The touchdown pass came on a 32-yarder to wide receiver Trenton Irwin going down the right sideline into Cover Two past cornerback Derek Stingley on third-and-short. That came after Burrow targeted his tight ends six times (out of eight) with Tanner Hudson getting five catches for 28 yards. One was a 13-yarder on third-and-eight and the other a gutty three-yarder over the middle on fourth-and-three as the Bengals adjusted to wide receiver Tee Higgins (hamstring) sidelined.
Stroud came off last week's rookie-record 470 yards and was just as hot in the first half with 198 more on 13 of 21. The Bengals couldn't cover Noah Brown, who had 96 of them on four catches, two of them in a back-breaking drive at the end of the half for 28 and 29 yards.
The 29-yarder came on third-and-13 as the Bengals let them off the hook from the Texans 12 with just over three minutes left in the half and allowed a 45-yarder from Amendola to make it 10-7.
But the Texans' two fumbles prevented them from having a huge lead.
Singletary ripped off 7.4 yards per his first eight carries and that gave Stroud plenty of time back there. They drove to a fourth-and-one on the Bengals 9, but when Stroud backed out from under center early, he fumbled and old Texans nose tackle DJ Reader fell on him, marking the seventh time this season the Bengals had prevented a team from scoring points in the red zone.
Later in the half, linebacker Logan Wilson worked a stunt with Bengals leading sacker Trey Hendrickson and Hendrickson drilled Stroud to force a fumble and slot cornerback Mike Hilton recovered at the Bengals 28.
The Texans' one touchdown drive in the first half took just 3:03 and and was capped by a six-yarder from the connection that pulled off last week's stunner in Tampa Bay, Stroud to rookie wide receiver Tank Dell.