This season, Ryan McArthur has noticed something whenever he visits NRG Stadium. More Texans fans appeared to emerge from the woods for every game.

When the Texans defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in early October, the 26-year-old saw that the majority of the audience was made up of Steelers supporters. Two months later, against the Denver Broncos, he remarked that although the Houston home section was now larger, the number of opposition spectators was still excessive. The majority of fans were Texans for the regular season’s home finale against the Tennessee Titans on New Year’s Eve.

Saturday marked the first time the Texans both played in a playoff game and hosted a playoff game since January 2020. The accomplishment comes off the heels of a dismal three-year stretch that saw the team cycle through four head coaches, start five quarterbacks and win only 11 of 50 games.

But first-year Texans head coach DeMeco Ryans and top draft picks C.J. Stroud and Will Anderson Jr. ushered in a new era of Houston football that has excited the fan base and brought immediate success.

“This season is a 10 out of 10, win or lose today,” said Blake Moss, whose family has had season tickets since the franchise’s first season in 2002.

David Peterson, a season ticket holder since that inaugural season, said this year feels like the start of something big. While tailgating with his wife, Alesia, and two people in town for tomorrow’s marathon, he said Houston had a lot of those potential “starts” over its two decades.

But this time feels different to him. Ryans and Stroud help make it feel different. He said this is the most excited he’s been for a playoff game since the team’s first postseason game back in January 2012.

“This is a surprise,” Peterson said. “If we went 7-10 this year, people might go, ‘hey, this is a success.’ We’d be happy. This blows us away, but now raises that bar for next year.”

He said this is a top-five season in Texans history with the chance to keep rising the more the team wins in the playoffs. Moss agreed its not up to the standard set by the teams with J.J. Watt, Matt Schaub, Arian Foster and Andre Johnson but he thinks this could be the start of a run that sees Houston match and exceed that standard.

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Stacy Stringer had an even deeper cut, saying while the hype around this team isn’t at the level of the Luv Ya Blue era of Houston Oilers football, it is growing.

“It’s fun seeing the excitement,” Stringer said alongside her 20-year-old son Jordan. “We were just looking around and we’re like, ‘Oh, good. There’s not too many Cleveland Browns fans.'”

Jordan said this is the most excited he has ever been for a playoff game, so much so he had trouble sleeping last night.

Gavynn Gonzales couldn’t sleep much either. He is attending his first playoff game with his friend Hayden Barron, who bet $2,000 on it. Gonzales said he spent the morning counting down the minutes until they could head over to the game.

“Football is back in Houston,” Gonzales said. “That’s for sure.”

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