Jakes Takes: Analyzing the Texans Comeback Victory

November 7, 2023

Jakes Takes: Analyzing the Texans Comeback Victory

Week 9 of the NFL season had quite a few entertaining games, highlighted by some breakout performances. The Baltimore Ravens throttled an NFC Division leader for the second time in three weeks. Three weeks ago, the Detroit Lions got shellacked by the Ravens. This time, it was the Seattle Seahawks, who got blown out 37-3. The Ravens racked up over 200 yards on the ground, led by undrafted rookie running back Keaton Mitchell, who ran the ball nine times for 138 times and a touchdown. The Los Angeles Rams lost to the Green Bay Packers but saw a breakout performance from 25-year-old rookie pass rusher Byron Young, who had eight tackles and two sacks.

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But there was no greater breakout performance than that of Houston Texans QB C.J. Stroud, who threw for a rookie-record 470 passing yards and 5 touchdowns. He capped off his day (which thrust him further along as the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year) with a 15-yard touchdown pass to fellow rookie (and breakout performer) Tank Dell with 6 seconds left to give the Texans the win. 

This game had everything and included some of the year's biggest line movements that I just had to talk about. 14 points being scored in the final 49 seconds of the game was sure to cause some interesting data points to arise, and I’m here to break it all down. 

The Buccaneers trailed the Texans 33-30 at the two-minute warning. At the time, the Texans had a win probability (WP) of 74%. Tampa was over 50 yards from the end zone, and by the 1:13 mark in the 4th quarter, Tampa faced a 4th and 2 on the Houston 41-yard line. They converted behind a ballsy 5-yard scramble from Baker Mayfield and promptly scored three plays later. Not to be lost in this was the fact that Tampa Bay fumbled the ball on a 15-yard catch from Mike Evans, who luckily recovered the fumble. 

After Tampa Bay’s touchdown, the Texans' win probability dropped to only 13%. They had a rookie quarterback, 75 yards to reach the end zone, and 46 seconds on the clock. Oh, and Houston had ZERO timeouts. C.J. Stroud completed a 14-yard pass to Dalton Schultz, his tight end. Despite the first down, the Texans' win probability dropped to 12.5%. On the next play, with 39 seconds remaining, Stroud found Schultz again, only for a 6-yard gain this time. The win probability dropped to 7%. Stroud followed that up with a 14-yard completion to Noah Brown, a fellow Ohio State Buckeye and largely unheralded receiver (who had a career day). The WP climbed slightly to 7.5%, and Stroud spiked the ball with 16 seconds remaining on the Tampa Bay 41-yard line. 

Remember – a field goal would’ve done nothing in this situation. The Bucs were up by 4 points. The Texans needed a miracle touchdown. Unphased, Stroud lofted a deep ball (for a gain of 26 yards) to Tank Dell, his diminutive rookie wide receiver. Dell made the catch and ran out of bounds to stop the clock with 10 seconds. By this point, the Texans' WP had climbed back to 28.5%. Just in time for C.J. Stroud to complete a pass to Tank Dell, yet again, for a 15-yard score that sent their WP to 99% with 6 seconds left on the clock. 

There’s so much to unpack here. Stroud was incredible. He completed 30/42 passes for the aforementioned 470 yards and 5 touchdowns. He connected with Noah Brown, his fellow Buckeye, six times for 153 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown. Dalton Schultz, an offseason acquisition and former Cowboy (like Brown) had 10 catches for 130 yards and a score. Tank Dell, who is listed generously at 5’10” and 165 lbs, posted six catches for 114 yards and the game-winning touchdown. The Texans even got an unexpected contribution from backup running back Dare Ogunbowale, who replaced injured Texans K Ka’imi Fairbairn to hit a 29-yard field goal with under 9 minutes remaining in the game.

But it’s not like the Bucs offense was bad! Baker Mayfield continued his renaissance season, completing 21/30 passes for 265 yards and 2 touchdowns, while also picking up that huge 4th down conversion. Rachaad White, who I picked against rushing for over 50 yards just one week ago, posted 73 yards on the ground, 46 receiving yards, and 2 touchdowns. Mike Evans was his usual, consistent self - 4/87. Bucs TE Cade Otton had by far his best game of the season, with 70 receiving yards and 2 scores. 

At the end of the day though, this game belonged to Stroud, who has looked like not only the best rookie QB but one of the best NFL QBs, this season. Stroud has completed 62% of his passes for 2,270 yards, 14 touchdowns, and only 1 interception. He’s 7th in the league in passing yards and passing touchdowns, and his single interception is the lowest among starters who have played at least 5 games. Could this game be the start of Stroud’s ROTY AND MVP campaign? 

Fun fact: only one NFL rookie has ever won MVP and ROTY in the same season. Let us know in the comments if you know who that player was!

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