The importance of crowd noise this Saturday at Reliant Stadium cannot be overstated. Confusion for the offense, difficulty orchestrating verbal play calls, and the forced use of a silent count are just a few of the perils a roaring, relentless mass of die-hard Texans fans can present to the Bengals.
Fans have filled Reliant Stadium all season, bringing the noise and wreaking havoc on opponents, and this weekend should be no exception. The Texans anticipate their fans in full force at deafening volume, ready to assist the Texans' defense in ending the Cincinnati Bengals' chances at a Divisional Round playoff bid.
"Our crowd is awesome," defensive end J.J. Watt said. "I love our fans and what they bring to the table. Being a player, you can really tell when it screws up an offense. I think that our place is one of the toughest to play in because when you combine the roof being closed with the loudness of our fans and the intensity they bring every single play, not just on third down, it makes it an extremely tough place to play, and it gives us energy and focus."
Outside linebacker Connor Barwin, who coined the "Bulls on Parade" nickname for the Texans' defense, is relying on the fans' roar to get a competitive advantage.
"The crowd noise is huge for us on defense because it allows us to kind of jump the cadence when the other team's on offense," Barwin said. "It's very important for the defense, most importantly for the pass rush."
If you are experiencing a bit of déjà vu, it's because the Texans were in the exact same position last season when they hosted the Bengals for the Wild Card playoff game Jan. 7, 2012. Houston won 31-10, and the effect of 71,500 screaming spectators on Cincinnati's offense did not go unnoticed by Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.
"The environment was brutal," Gruden said, via Geoff Hobson of Bengals.com. "It was very loud, and it's something we're going to have to deal with and hopefully going in we'll be a little better prepared, but it's hard to prepare for that type of noise. So we've just go to prepare for that type of noise and the energy level they play with."
On Tuesday, Texans head coach Gary Kubiak emphasized the significance of stopping teams on third down and believes the crowd's ability to create an atmosphere of confusion and anxiety will be a contributing factor in doing so.
"It's very important," Kubiak said. "We're going to play better on the back end when we get to the quarterback. That's as simple as that.
"Hopefully, being at home, the noise, all those things, we can do a better job from that standpoint."