Stroud throws 2 TD pass, defense makes late stops to lead Texans over Saints 20-13

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By KRISTIE RIEKEN | AP Sports Writer

Houston Texans wide receiver Robert Woods (2) celebrates his touchdown reception with quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in Houston, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

HOUSTON (AP) — Rookie C.J. Stroud threw for 199 yards and two touchdowns and the Houston Texans got two defensive stops late to hold on for a 20-13 win over the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

The victory matches Houston’s win total from last season when the team finished 3-13-1.

The Saints (3-3) trailed by 7 when Derek Carr threw a 51-yard pass to Rashid Shaheed to get them to the Houston 35. Five consecutive runs by Alvin Kamara got them to the 14. But Carr’s pass to Kamara on fourth-and-4 was short to give Houston the ball back with 4½ minutes to go.

Shaquill Griffin and Blake Cashman combined to take Kamara down near the Texans sideline where coach DeMeco Ryans celebrated with his defense.

Houston (3-3) couldn’t move the ball after that and punted it back. New Orleans got to the Houston 24 on the next drive, but Carr’s throw on fourth-and-10 was intercepted by Steven Nelson with 21 seconds left to secure the win.

Carr threw for a season-high 353 yards and a touchdown but often couldn’t finish drives as the Saints, lost for the third time in four games after opening the season 2-0.

The Texans led 17-10 at halftime and made it 20-10 on a 22-yard field goal with about seven minutes left in the third quarter. Houston had a first down at the 1-yard line after a pass interference call against Marshon Lattimore in the end zone. But two incomplete passes and a 3-yard loss on a run by Dameon Pierce forced the Texans to settle for the short field goal.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Derek Carr (4) is sacked by Houston Texans defensive tackle Maliek Collins (96) and defensive end Jonathan Greenard (52) in the second half of an NFL football game in Houston, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Blake Grupe’s 45-yard field goal cut the lead to 20-13 with about two minutes remaining in the third. Carr was sacked by Sheldon Rankins for a loss of 11 yards on second down and threw an incomplete pass on third to bring up fourth down.

New Orleans had a shot to cut the deficit on its next drive, but Grupe’s 29-yard attempt sailed wide right.

Kamara had 19 carries for 68 yards and Chris Olave had seven receptions for 96 yards.

The Saints missed a 52-yard field-goal attempt on their first drive.

Stroud threw his first interception of the season in the first quarter after setting an NFL record for attempts without a pick to start a career. Stroud entered the game having thrown 186 passes without an interception to pass Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott, who threw 176 passes before being intercepted.

Stroud threw five passes Sunday to stretch the streak to 191 before a pass intended for Dalton Schultz was intercepted by Zack Baun with about six minutes left in the first quarter.

But receiver Nico Collins hit Baun after the interception and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Tytus Howard, to give the Texans the ball back.

Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) calls out a play from the line of scrimmage in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in Houston, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Stroud put the Texans up 7-0 when he threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Schultz to give him a TD in three straight games.

New Orleans tied it when Carr connected with Shaheed on a 34-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter.

Houston added a 24-yard field goal with about 10½ minutes remaining in the second quarter to make it 10-7.

The Texans made it 17-7 when Robert Woods caught a 6-yard TD pass from Stroud about three minutes until halftime. Collins got that drive going with a 28-yard reception.

New Orleans cut the lead to 17-10 when Grupe made a 48-yard field goal just before halftime.


Houston S Eric Murray injured a knee in the first quarter. … New Orleans LG James Hurst injured an ankle in the second quarter. … RT Ryan Ramczyk left in the fourth quarter to be evaluated for a concussion.

Houston Texans running back Devin Singletary (26) is tackled by New Orleans Saints linebacker Pete Werner (20) in the first half of an NFL football game in Houston, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Stroud was sacked two times Sunday after the Texans entered the game having not allowed a sack in a franchise-record three games. Carl Granderson had one and Demario Davis had the other.


Saints: Host Jacksonville Thursday night.

Texans: Are off next Sunday before visiting Carolina Oct. 29.