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Texans believe Stroud gives them chance to win in every game

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HOUSTON -- On Sunday, the Houston Texans trailed 24-14 with seven minutes remaining against the Jacksonville Jaguars when rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud drove them down the field and threw a touchdown to receiver Nico Collins.

After the defense made a stop, the Texans got the ball back with 3:01 remaining and started from their own 11-yard line. Stroud helped orchestrate a drive that got the Texans down to the Jaguars' 39-yard line, where kicker Matt Ammendola would attempt a 58-yard field goal to tie the game.

Ammendola, who was in for the injured Ka'imi' Fairbairn, had his kick bounce off the crossbar and the Texans (6-5) fell just short in their comeback attempt. Ammendola was waived Monday to create room for recently claimed defensive end Derek Barnett.

Still, Stroud threw for 304 yards, two touchdowns, and rushed for another score while avoiding any turnovers Sunday. But even though the outcome wasn't what they wanted, left tackle Laremy Tunsil was proud to have a quarterback they can count on to put the team in that position.

"Super thankful to have a guy like that," Tunsil told ESPN. "Thanksgiving just passed, and they asked me what I'm thankful for and I said C.J. Stroud. Happy to have a quarterback like that who you can make plays whenever it is needed. [Doesn't matter if] we're down by 10, 21, it doesn't matter as long as [Stroud] has the ball in his hands."

The praise from coaches and teammates is something Stroud yearned for when he was drafted No. 2 overall in April. Knowing his team believes in him means just as much as his on-field production.

"It's amazing," Stroud said. "That's all you want as a quarterback, especially a rookie. There's a lot of veterans on this team, and the way they look at me before we go out there or just any play at practice, they're always giving me confidence."

Stroud continued to cement himself within the record books in Week 12, which is part of why his teammates trust him.

His passing output set a new record for the most passing yards through the first 11 games for a rookie (3,266), passing Los Angeles Chargers' Justin Herbert.

Stroud is also the first rookie to throw for 300 pass yards in four straight games, and he's now tied with Andrew Luck for the second most 300-yard games by a rookie (six). Stroud's passing yards are also second all time through 11 games, trailing only the Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes (3,434).

"It's a blessing, man," Stroud said. "Honestly, for me everything always goes back to my faith and my family. They gave me a lot of freedom to really hone in on my job, and this isn't college. This is a job. Like I was talking to [Tom] Brady on the podcast, he had a great word of advice for me. 'This is your job. People are depending on you.'"

Despite now being two games behind Jacksonville (8-3) in the AFC South after Sunday, the Texans are still in the playoff mix. But with Stroud, who leads the league in yards per game (296.9), he gives his teammates and coaches the unwavering belief that he can keep them afloat.

"With C.J. and what he's been able to do, I think it's part of the reason why we are where we are," coach DeMeco Ryans said. "What our record is, it's because when he's played well. I think everybody around him has played together. He can make plays for us, and we've seen that."

Right guard Shaq Mason played with Brady for six seasons and won two Super Bowls with him. He sees similarities between Brady and Stroud, so his confidence in the young quarterback is high.

"Just the day-to-day approach [Stroud] takes, I'm saying he has confidence in himself that builds confidence in us to trust him," Mason told ESPN. "He's had comeback victories already. I'm saying those are things that you expect from vets, from people like [Brady]. He's shown that he can handle whatever comes at him. That gives us tremendous confidence where we never feel out of a game."

The loss ended the Texans' three-game winning streak with the Denver Broncos (6-5), who have won five straight to climb back into the AFC playoff race, coming to town Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS).

"They show me that they really do trust in me, and I trust in them right back," Stroud said. "It's definitely helpful and gives me a lot of confidence. I appreciate those guys fighting for me, and I'm fighting right for them."