It was Jan. 16, 1994. The Houston Oilers were AFC Central Division champs, the second seeded team in the AFC and winners of 11 straight games after owner Bud Adams had given a "Super Bowl or bust" ultimatum to head coach Jack Pardee, his staff and the team.
The Oilers came out led by Warren Moon and Buddy Ryan's ferocious defense and took a 10-0 first half lead. They had totally perplexed Joe Montana and Marcus Allen and looked well on their way to an AFC championship showdown with the Buffalo Bills, the last team who had defeated them.
Montana threw three second half touchdown passes, however, and Marcus Allen capped off a game-clinching drive with a 21 yard run and the Oilers Super Bowl hopes were gone.
Warren Moon would be shipped to Minnesota, Jack Pardee would be replaced by Jeff Fisher and by 1997 the Oilers would relocate to Tennessee. That was the fallout from the last NFL Playoff game in Houston.
On Saturday, the NFL Playoffs will again take place in Houston, not in the venerated "House of Pain,' the Astrodome, but state-of-the-art Reliant Stadium. And not with the Oilers, who did go on to appear in a Super Bowl, but as the Tennessee Titans, but as the Houston Texans, the expansion franchise brought to Houston and making the franchise's first post season appearance since coming into the league in 2002.
To say that the Bengals will be walking into a raucous atmosphere Saturday would be an understatement. Football fans in Houston have been waiting almost 20 years for this moment.
Bengals fans know that all too well. Remember the 2005 season? It had been a 16 year wait for the denizens of the Jungle to see their team play football in January. Paul Brown Stadium was rocking as the hated Pittsburgh Steelers came to town in what would surely be a speed bump on the way to the Super Bowl. When Carson Palmer hit Chris Henry down the sideline the place came unglued. Then silence overtook the stadium as the watched Palmer laying on the ground, the victim of Kimo von Oelhoffen's shot to the knee.
While we don't wish injury on Texans' starter TJ Yates, the Bengals are looking to silence what will be a crazed Houston crowd early on. Both Cincinnati and Houston have used fast starts to their advantage, ranking in the top 10 in the league in first quarter scoring. For the Bengals to be successful, they're going to have to get out to an early lead as they did when the teams played in Cincinnati back in December.
Cincinnati has had mixed success doing just that on the road. Their most successful effort in silencing a visiting crowd came in probably their toughest venue against the Seattle Seahawks. In that game, the Bengals got out to a 17-3 halftime advantage and then pulled away. They'll need a similar game plan on Saturday to earn the first road playoff win in franchise history.
Houston fans have been waiting a long time for Saturday's game. Here's hoping they have to wait at least another year to get their satisfaction.
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