6 memorable NFL playoff games when the weather won
By John Roach, AccuWeather staff writer
Sunday's AFC Championship game in Kansas City, which could be the coldest in Arrowhead Stadium history, continues the NFL's rich history of unforgettable foul-weather games. That's no surprise since the NFL schedule begins during hurricane season and ends in the heart of winter -- and the playoffs are no exception. With the AFC and NFC championship games set for this weekend, here are the six most memorable NFL playoff games in which Mother Nature took the field.
No. 6: The Chilling Championship
The second-coldest game played on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field was the 2007 NFC Championship game between the Green Bay Packers and the New York Giants; the temperature was minus 1 degree Fahrenheit and the wind chill was minus 23 F.
Brett Favre's last game as a Packer turned on an overtime interception by Corey Webster that set up New York for a 47-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes. Among the lasting images of New York's 23-20 OT victory is how rosy Giants coach Tom Coughlin's face became because of the bitter cold. "His chin was frozen," punter Jeff Feagles told Sports Illustrated. "His cheeks were so red I thought he was going to get frostbite forever."
No. 5: The Snow Bowl
While it's called the Snow Bowl, this game is also known as The Tuck Rule Game, or, for Raiders fans, The New England Snow Job. It was also the start of the Patriots' dynasty as backup quarterback Tom Brady took over for Drew Bledsoe early in the season and led New England to the playoffs and the team's first-ever Super Bowl title.
This 2001 AFC divisional playoff game, however, didn't showcase either team's best moments in the first half, as blizzard conditions led to them combining for the same number of punts as first downs (11) and converting only one of 13 third downs. But that's not what's memorable about the Patriots' 16-13 OT win; Charles Woodson's sack of Brady that led to a fumble/reversed call is one Raiders fans will never forget. In fact, new coach Jon Gruden referenced it 17 years later when he was hired in 2018, noting to Woodson, "Brady fumbled that ball."
No. 4: The Blizzard of 1948
At least one person thought the 1948 NFL championship game between the host Philadelphia Eagles and the Chicago Cardinals was going to be snowed out. Eagles running back Steve Van Buren looked out his window that morning at a raging blizzard and went back to bed. His coach had to call to tell him the game was on, so he caught three trolleys and walked several blocks in the storm to make the game, which started with 4 inches of accumulation that only got worse.
The first NFL championship game to be televised remains the second-lowest scoring postseason game in NFL history, with the Eagles winning 7-0 on a Van Buren TD run, as neither team could do much in the storm. The grounds crew needed the teams' players to help remove the tarp, the kickoff was delayed 30 minutes, and extra officials were used to assist with out-of-bounds calls.
Van Buren later said, "I was sure the game would be postponed."
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No. 3: The Freezer Bowl
Broadcaster Dick Enberg welcomed viewers to the 1981 AFC championship game by saying, "The meteorologist put it this way: 'It's gone from bitter cold to brutally cold.'"
The Cincinnati Bengals' 27-7 win over the San Diego Chargers was the coldest game in NFL history in terms of wind chill, which was minus 59 F at game time thanks to 27-mph sustained winds, with the temperature at minus 9 F. It was so cold that icicles formed on Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts' beard.
The Chargers went from one extreme to the others; the week before, they played an overtime game in Miami in 88-degree heat and humidity. Bengals coach Forrest Gregg, however, had seen this kind of thing before, having played for the Green Bay Packers in the 1967 Ice Bowl.
No. 2: The Fog Bowl
During the 1988 NFC divisional playoff game between the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles, a dense fog overtook Chicago's Soldier Field in the second quarter and what happened next was hard to tell. Or, as broadcaster Verne Lundquist said from the booth, "We can't see anything beyond 10 feet from here."
A rare late-December mix of cold and hot air in the atmosphere created the fog, which lasted just long enough to end shortly after the game was over and kept the teams to a combined six second-half points. The Bears won, 20-12. Coincidentally, referee Jim Tunney worked both the Fog Bowl and the game at No. 1 on our list.
No. 1: The Ice Bowl
The ultimate bad-weather NFL playoff game, the Ice Bowl was the 1967 NFL championship game featuring the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys. The Packers won, 21-17, to advance to Super Bowl II against the AFL champion Oakland Raiders.
The coldest game in the history of the NFL started with a game-time temperature of minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit and a wind chill of minus 48 F. Five players were treated for frostbite after the game, including Packer quarterback Bart Starr. The refs stopped using their whistles after the opening kickoff -- shouting their calls instead -- because the metal froze to their lips. Seven members of a local college band, which didn't play at halftime as expected, went to the hospital for hypothermia.
Lambeau Field's ground froze after the underground turf-heating system malfunctioned, so by game's end, the players were slipping all over an icy field when Starr ran a quarterback sneak for the game-winner with 13 seconds left.
Noting an effect of the bitter cold, TV analyst Frank Gifford famously said during the game, "I'm going to take a bite of my coffee."
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