Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton has made a habit of postseason appearances at Reliant Stadium since graduating from Katy in 2006.
The red-headed signal caller made his first appearance as a freshman for TCU when the Horned Frogs beat the University of Houston in the Texas Bowl, and then he returned in 2011 as a rookie quarterback in the NFL when the Texans beat the Bengals 31-10 in the wildcard round of the playoffs. Now he's coming back with the Bengals for the second straight season to face the Texans in the NFL's first weekend of playoff action.
“Yeah, it’ll be fun," Dalton told Houston reporters this week. "There’s a lot of family and stuff around the Houston area, and in Texas in general. It’s definitely cool to come back and play where I’m from.”
Playing in your hometown has certain distractions, especially for a visiting player. But as loud as Reliant Stadium will be Dalton knows he’ll have at least one large pocket of fans who will be cheering him on because he’s providing the tickets.
“I don’t know, we haven’t got the total yet. I’m sure there will be a lot of people there.”
Dalton’s first NFL playoff experience was a difficult one, the Texans' defense harassed him all game in the wild card round last year, sacking him four times and forcing three interceptions, including J.J. Watt’s interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter. Though the loss was a bitter pill, Dalton now knows what to expect for Saturday’s rematch.
“We know what the atmosphere is going to be like,” Dalton said. “We obviously fell short last year, but I think we’ve got a lot of guys that were there last year and experienced all that. I don’t think there will be too many surprises for us going into it. I think all that other experience of playing there last year and all that is going to help us out this year.”
The Bengals head into the playoffs this year riding a second half surge, having won seven of their last eight games and Dalton is a big reason why. The quarterback has blossomed in his second season, throwing for more than 3,600 yards and 27 touchdowns. One thing that’s helped Dalton’s development has been the similar approach to games that his teams have had from high school here in the Houston area through the NFL.
“Everywhere that I’ve been, Katy, then TCU and now here, we practiced really hard,” Dalton said. “I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s just because they’ve been defensive coaches or what that is. I think that attitude that every team that I’ve been on has had. I think all that stuff has helped me get where I am today.”