Joe Burrow and the Bengals are on course for Arrowhead Stadium, a venue notorious for cranking up the decibels.
Burrow won't be bringing his earplugs to Sunday's AFC Championship Game. The quarterback has plenty of experience playing in loud stadiums from his college days spent in the Southeastern Conference.
"In the SEC, every single week it seems like every stadium is really loud, there's hundreds of thousands of people," Burrow said Wednesday. "This one is going to be similar. We expect it to be really loud, we're talking about it throughout the week. We're going to have to be great with our communication, our non-verbal communication, just like every week on the road."
Burrow has addressed potentially difficult road environments during the regular season, pointing to his time at Louisiana State by telling reporters it "gets way louder in the SEC than in any of these NFL stadiums." Former Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes doesn't believe Burrow understands the setting he'll be walking into this weekend, tweeting Burrow "is in for a rude awakening."
We can debate decibel levels for days (Seattle also might have something to say about crowd noise), but Burrow got a taste of audible adversity last weekend in Cincinnati's Divisional Round win over Tennessee. Burrow said his helmet's radio lost communication with coaches' headsets, including play-caller and head coach Zac Taylor, during the game, requiring the second-year quarterback to call his own plays for a portion of the contest.
It was the first time he'd been in such a spot. Burrow handled it well.
"No, I've never been in that position before," Burrow said of losing contact with his coaches. "That was kind of exciting for me. Zac always kind of jokes, 'Hey, don't pretend like the headset goes out so you can call your own plays.' But on Saturday, the headset did go out, and so I had to call three or four plays on my own. And all of them worked, so that was fun."
While he didn't throw a touchdown pass, Burrow was sharp in Cincinnati's win over Tennessee, completing 28 of 37 passes for 348 yards. An interception was the lone stain on his stat line, but when it mattered most, Burrow again came through, hitting Ja'Marr Chase on a 19-yard completion that moved the Bengals into field goal range in the final minute of regulation. Evan McPherson drilled the 52-yard field goal to send the Bengals to the conference title game.
Burrow's Bengals will likely find themselves in a shootout this weekend against a familiar opponent. Cincinnati needed 34 points and a clock-draining final possession to defeat Kansas City in Week 17, clinching the AFC North crown in the process.
In that game, the Bengals had home-field advantage. They won't have the same luxury this weekend. As Tynes tweeted, Burrow will become very familiar with the hostile environment of Arrowhead Stadium.
It will be up to the youngster to prove the former kicker wrong with his performance -- and perhaps his ability to communicate amid adverse circumstances -- in order to help the Bengals reach the Super Bowl.