Remembering The Coldest Games In NFL History
Football players are highly esteemed for their physical and mental toughness. Playing through pain, getting up after taking a devastating hit, not to mention the years of preparation it takes to perform at the highest level in their sport. And that's all before the weather forecast comes in and adds yet another layer of adversity. The NFL schedule stretches into the coldest season of the year, and the January playoffs can clash with teeth-chattering conditions. Braving the cold has always been a part of the game. Before stocking up on Christmas gifts for sports fans, warm yourself up by taking a look back at five of the coldest games in NFL history.
Below-freezing temperatures and a threatening wind chill set the scene for one of the biggest upsets in NFL playoff history. The Kansas City Chiefs went into the playoffs with a league-best 13-3 regular season record. Facing an underdog Indianapolis Colts team that fought their way into the playoffs with a 9-7 record, the Chiefs had home field advantage and everything going for them as they prepared for their January 7th matchup in 1996. But the Chiefs might have been better off playing on the road. The temperature in Arrowhead Stadium was a staggering -6 degrees, with a binding wind chill of -15. The Chiefs quarterback struggled, tossing three interceptions, and a missed field goal in the closing seconds of the game allowed the Colts to escape with a 10-7 win, advancing them to the conference championship.
Red Right 88
In the 1981 AFC Divisional Playoff, the Cleveland Browns might have also favored playing on the road instead of Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The temperature was -5 degrees with an icy wind chill of -20 at its lowest point. Unlike the difference between the Chiefs and Colts, the Browns and Raiders shared an 11-5 regular season record. The Raiders had the momentum coming into the game after beating up on the Houston Oilers in the Wild Card Playoff Game the week before. The freezing conditions held both offenses in check, but it was the interception in the end zone by Raiders safety Mike Davis that kept the Browns from finishing their final drive of the game. Down by only two points and on the Raiders' 13-yard line, the Browns called a passing play, the now-infamous Red Right 88, instead of kicking the easy field goal and sealing the win.
If it weren't for the new covered stadiums in cold-weather cities like Indianapolis and Detroit, there would probably be more cold-weather games making the top of the list in recent years. But not every stadium is covered. The 2016 NFC Wild Card game between the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks became the third-coldest game in the history of the NFL, at -6 degrees with a -25 degree wind chill. Another low-scoring game with most points coming off field goals, it also came down to a last minute chip shot through the uprights. This time, the Vikings missed what might have been an easy 27-yard field goal if the icy wind wasn't gusting, allowing the Seahawks to advance to the next round and warmer conditions in Carolina.
Anyone who doesn't think wind chill plays a factor in the overall temperature should ask one of the players from the AFC Championship matchup in 1982. The Cincinnati Bengals played host to the San Diego Chargers in what came to be known as the Freezer Bowl. The temperature was a frigid -9 degrees, but the wind chill was a daunting -38 degrees, the lowest ever recorded in the history of an NFL game. According to the final score, the weather seemed to play a larger role in slowing down the Chargers. The Bengals coasted to a fairly easy 27-7 win, despite the icy, record-setting conditions.
The Ice Bowl
The most famous cold-weather game in NFL history is known as The Ice Bowl. Praised as one of the greatest games in NFL history, it pitted the Green Bay Packers against the Dallas Cowboys in an exact rematch of the 1966 NFL Championship. In 1966, the game was played in Dallas. But in 1967, Lambeau Field was the setting. The temperature at game time was -15 degrees, and the wind chill was around -36 degrees, so cold that the referees refused to use their whistles after finding out they froze to their lips early in the game. Unlike the Bengals-Chargers matchup that would unfold years later in temperatures nearly as cold, The Ice Bowl was a classic, with the Packers edging the Cowboys on a Bart Starr touchdown with only 13 seconds left in the game.