HOUSTON (AP) — C.J Stroud and Houston’s offense took a step forward against the Colts on Sunday.

Unfortunately, the defense took a step back in the 31-20 loss that dropped the Texans to 0-2.

“We can’t have the back and forth,” coach DeMeco Ryans said. “We have to be consistent, and that’s the one thing. Be consistent and don’t have self-inflicted wounds.”

The Texans allowed quarterback Anthony Richardson to run for two touchdowns in the first quarter Sunday and couldn’t slow down Indy’s offense after he left with a concussion and was replaced by Gardner Minshew.

The backup led the Colts to two more touchdowns in the first half to leave Houston in a 28-10 hole by halftime.

“Defensively, we weren’t good enough,” said Ryans a former linebacker on the team. “If we want to be a good defense, it all starts up front — stopping the run. We did not stop the run. We did not tackle well. Fundamental football wasn’t good enough. If you want to win games in this league, we’ve got to play better.”

The Colts had 126 yards rushing Sunday.

On offense, Stroud found his stride in his second NFL game despite dealing with offensive line problems. The second overall pick threw for 384 yards and two touchdowns after failing to get the Texans in the end zone in the opener.

Stroud ranks fourth in the NFL with 626 yards passing and the former Ohio State star hasn’t thrown an interception.

“I’m excited to just keep working,” Stroud said. “That’s one thing about the NFL that I’m learning, it’s week to week. You’ve got to lick your wounds and just keep going, because no one said it was going to be easy and it’s not supposed to (be).”

WHAT’S WORKING

Stroud’s performance has completely turned around Houston’s passing game from last season when Davis Mills struggled to move the offense.

Stroud’s big day helped the Texans finish with 389 yards of total offense, which was the most they’ve had since Week 13 of the 2020 season.

Houston Texans wide receiver Nico Collins (12) is tackled by Indianapolis Colts safety Rodney Thomas II (25) after picking up a first down in the second half of an NFL football game in Houston, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

His 384 yards passing Sunday were the second most by a rookie in franchise history. His 58 completions in his first two games rank second in NFL history by a rookie quarterback through the first two games behind Joe Burrow, who had 60 in 2020.

“C.J. did a really good job managing the offense,” Ryans said. “Guys around him played a little better. C.J. does that every week. He just built on what he did last week, continued to put the ball where we need it, make good decisions with the football. So, I’m encouraged by C.J.’s play.”

WHAT NEEDS HELP

Stroud has managed to play well despite being sacked an NFL-high 11 times this season.

The 21-year-old was sacked six times and hit nine other times Sunday. Houston’s offensive line has struggled this season after losing four starters on the line during camp. Things got even worse Sunday when they were without star left tackle Laremy Tunsil because of a knee injury.

The Texans are hopeful he can return this week to help stabilize the group.

STOCK UP

WR Nico Collins had a career-high 146 yards receiving and a touchdown against the Colts. It was the first 100-yard game of his three-year career and the most yards receiving by a Texan since DeAndre Hopkins had 147 on Dec. 30, 2018.

“I watched a couple of games last year, and he was always open,” Stroud said. “And, if he wasn’t, he was going to make a tough catch. With the type of receiver, just give him a shot, give him a chance, and he’ll make the play. It’s really fun working with a guy like that.”

STOCK DOWN

Josh Jones filled in for Tunsil and struggled in protection all day. He also had a holding penalty in the fourth quarter that negated a touchdown by Tank Dell.

INJURIES

S Eric Murray left in the first quarter with a concussion. … S Jalen Pitre missed Sunday’s game with a chest injury and it’s unclear if he’ll return this week.

KEY NUMBER

0 — The Texans had zero sacks against the Colts after getting three last week.

NEXT STEPS

The Texans must find a way to better protect Stroud so he can stay healthy to lead the team. The defense will have another challenge this week in dealing with Trevor Lawrence when Houston continues AFC South play with a visit to Jacksonville.