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Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) celebrates his second half touchdown during an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Emilee Chinn)

After a few years of being relegated to after-thought status, the Texans are all of a sudden becoming the talk of the town and commanding a little national conversation, too.

That’s what happens when you have a young, energetic coach in DeMeco Ryans and a rookie quarterback in C.J. Stroud, who is on pace to have a historic season and seems to have AFC Rookie of the Year honors all but locked up. After not winning more than four games in a season since 2019, the Texans are 5-4 and are one of the better teams in the AFC around the midpoint of the season.

“Five wins is big, but we have to continue to grow. We have to continue to grow and not get comfortable. Any week teams can be beat, so it’s important to continue to grow and build.”

Wide receiver nico collins

But Ryans, who is in his first season as a head coach, is aware of the buzz around the city and is embracing it while also keeping things in perspective.

“Yeah, we’re excited about what our guys have done here to create the energy and the buzz around the city,” said Ryans, who also once played for the Texans. “I think our fans here in Houston deserve it, so our guys have done a good job.

“Our fans have done a great job of supporting us – we feel that support, we feel the energy when we’re in our stadium. We love our fans, love the support that they bring us, and we’re just excited to continue to go out another week and just go play good football. I think if we continue to play good football, the city will continue to be excited.”

The Texans are coming off back-to-back wins in which Stroud played beyond his years in leading the offense on game-winning drives at the end against Tampa Bay and last week against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Suddenly, the Texans are sitting in second place behind Jacksonville and if the playoffs were to start today, they would be in the postseason for the first time since the 2019 season.

There is certainly a feeling around the franchise that things are trending in the right direction, but the players and coaches are aware there is still much work to be done.

“Five wins is big, but we have to continue to grow,” said Texans receiver Nico Collins. “We have to continue to grow and not get comfortable. Any week teams can be beat, so it’s important to continue to grow and build.”

Safety Jalen Pitre echoes those thoughts.

“It’s important,” Pitre said of recognizing there is still work to be done. “I feel like every rep is important, making sure we are detailed with every assignment. You never know when one play can hurt us. The biggest thing going forward is to hone in on the details and making sure we’re locked in on every play.”

They’re sure to be tested Sunday when Kyler Murray and the Cardinals come into NRG Stadium to begin a three-game home stretch for the Texans. Murray is recently coming off of a torn ACL injury, but he is still recognized as a force to be dealt with because of his arm talent and his ability to make something happen with his legs as one of the fastest players in the NFL.

“With the Cardinals, I think it starts with Kyler Murray first and foremost – getting him back,” said Ryans, whose team will be in all-battle red uniforms for the first time Sunday. “You talk about an explosive, dynamic playmaker at the quarterback position, one of the premier athletes in the NFL right now. [He] does a really good job passing the football, but as we all know, him with his scramble ability – that’s what won them the game this past week. So, it’s going to take everybody to get him down.”

I've been with The Defender since August 2019. I'm a long-time sportswriter who has covered everything from college sports to the Texans and Rockets during my 16 years of living in the Houston market....