The biggest Paul Brown Stadium crowd Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow has performed in front of is barely more than the capacity of Joe Burrow Stadium in Athens, Ohio.
Burrow led a torrid fourth-quarterback comeback last season that Cleveland extinguished in the last minute before 9,732. Joe Burrow Stadium seats 3,500, but clearly with the gates fully open both settings are going to be dwarfed by Sunday's 1 p.m. NFL opener (Cincinnati's Channel 19) against the Vikings.
And both Burrow and head coach Zac Taylor are hungering to play in a house that buzzes like the old days.
"We want this city to be excited. Our team is certainly excited, and we want the stadium to match that enthusiasm that we have," Taylor said before Wednesday's practice. "That is going to be critical for us in Week 1. We have to give this city and this stadium something to cheer about, but we need that to come from them Week 1. Pack this stadium. Be as loud as possible."
Taylor loves the idea of his overhauled defense that features nine different starters from the 2019 opener getting a helping hand from a big, rambunctious crowd.
"Teams going on silent cadence was not a thing last year. Nobody had to do it. So you're practicing it for the first time this year in a lot of ways," Taylor said. "So for us to get a home opener Week 1, with hopefully a fully packed stadium being as loud as they can possibly be on the first third-and-7 of the game that means something that we were missing last year."
Taylor has had close calls on his two Opening Days. They got nipped, 21-20, in Seattle in Taylor's 2019 debut despite a 400-yard day by quarterback Andy Dalton, Then last year in Burrow's debut his winning touchdown pass with seven seconds left to A.J. Green against the Chargers in front of no one at PBS was wiped off the board by a pass interference call on Green in a 16-13 loss.
But now Taylor is banking on his crowd being an X factor.
"It's a new year. We've got a new team. Our guys are fired up," Taylor said. "We're going to be ready to play. We're going to give the fans something to cheer about. We need them to show up and be loud right from the get-go and match our enthusiasm because we're going to be excited."
Burrow feels it, too. The last time he played in front of a full house he led LSU to a national title.
"I'm excited to be out there in front of a full stadium. We have great fans that really support us," Burrow said before Wednesday's practice. "We just have to put a good product on the field to make sure that they feel proud of us. We do this for the fans as well as ourselves, but, you know, the fans are what make the game go. And so I'm excited to show my appreciation to those guys, and hopefully go out and put up a good performance."