There’s no business like snow business in late-season NFL games

Watching the Green Bay Packers take apart the Tennessee Titans 40-14 in the Sunday Night Football (well, Monday lunchtime, in Melbourne and Sydney) special, and as we approach playoff football in the NFL, one question begs asking…

Isn’t there nothing like cold weather games in the NFL, in December and January? Especially when snow is involved?

Granted that what we witnessed pre-game at Lambeau Field in Green Bay – upon its “frozen tundra”, as legend has it – used to exist as a far more regular occurrence in the league’s halcyon days before a proliferation of domed stadiums and climate-controlled playing surfaces.

That said, when we see yard lines and hashmarks raked free amid thick dustings of snow, those occasions become even more special for the gridiron fan.

And for NFL fans in Australia, two reasons spring to mind as to why those are a delight, or even a novelty, to witness:

  • December and January mean it’s summer in the southern hemisphere.

  • Very rarely do we ever see AFL or NRL games played amid flurries of snow, due to higher-elevation and warmer-climate locations where games of the winter sporting codes are played. Well, maybe with one recent exception, when Hawthorn beat Greater Western Sydney 13.7 (85) to 4.5 (29) in Canberra, in 2019, in a game where the “buck-naked” feels-like temperature dipped as low as minus-7 degrees Celsius in addition to the snowfall.

  • This did also happen once in the NRL, in 2000, when Canberra – in, lo and behold, another game played in the nation’s capital – beat the Wests Tigers 24-22. (I’ll let the hyperlink speak for itself, in this instance, from someone who played in that game.)

So this got my memory banks of watching the NFL reeling… top five snow games in NFL history?

Let’s do it, for this man’s opinions…let it snow, let it snow, let it snow (and as a Raider fan, I refuse to acknowledge the existence of “Tuck Rule” game, the first evidence of Tom Brady’s cheating ways)…

No. 5: 1934 NFL Championship – New York Giants vs Chicago Bears

The Giants scored 27 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, paced by two Ken Strong rushing touchdowns, to run out 30-13 winners to take out the 1934 title game. Their secret? Switching to sneakers – presumably Chuck Taylor basketball sneakers, legend has it – at the halftime break to get better traction in the snowy, slushy, slippery conditions.

No. 4: O.J. Simpson breaks the 2,000-yard rushing barrier

Long before he became known as a cultural icon for another act entirely, O.J. Simpson broke a mystical barrier of 2000 yards in a single campaign – breaking Jim Brown’s single-season NFL record in the process, and on a day at New York’s famed Shea Stadium where snow flurries fell heavily as Simpson’s Buffalo Bills beat the New York Jets 34-14. Simpson’s rushing mark of 2003 yards was such a landmark at the time, and achieved in only a 14-game regular season, that it would be another 21 years before another running back topped that plateau, when Eric Dickerson shattered Simpson’s record in 1984 with the Los Angeles Rams.

No. 3: Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots – December 12, 1982

The final score read, through the blizzard conditions at Foxboro’s Schaefer Stadium, as a 3-0 win for coach Ron Meyer’s Patriots. But what the box score won’t tell a reader is that it was Meyer who ordered Mark Henderson – driving a snow plow vehicle while on a work-release day furlough from a Boston-area prison – to clear enough room for kicker John Smith to kick a field goal for the only points of the game with just under five minutes to play.

After the game, Henderson – maintaining that he was only doing what he was told to do – quipped, “What are they going to do, throw me in jail?”

No. 2: 2013, Week 14 – Eagles beat Lions in a crazy finish

The insanity of the final quarter, in a game ultimately won 34-20 by the Eagles, perfectly matched the hazardously snowy conditions. Eagles running back LeSean McCoy rushed for a club-record 217 yards, accentuated by two long touchdown runs of 40 and 57 yards in the fourth quarter, as Philadelphia scored four touchdowns in that period.

McCoy’s heroics offset Detroit’s Jeremy Ross returning two kicks – a punt for 58 yards and a kickoff for 98 yards – for touchdowns, while the conditions played a role in Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford fumbling five times, and losing possession only once.

No. 1: November 11, 1985 – 49ers stymied by a snowball

This game isn’t noted for snow falling during the game at Mile High Stadium in Denver, but for a snowball landing at a key point during the action. San Francisco 49ers kicker Ray Wersching kicked three field goals, but all the post-match talking points were about the one he didn’t make – which wasn’t his fault.

As the 49ers were trailing 14-3 and lining up for a 19-yard field goal at the end of the first half, a snowball was hurled from the front rows behind the goalposts and landed where holder Matt Cavanaugh would have placed the ball for Wersching to kick his attempt. Instead, it was a bungled effort which made the difference as the 49ers – fighting tooth and nail for a playoff spot – lost to the Denver Broncos 17-16.

Cavanaugh told the San Jose Mercury-News after the game that the snowball landing at the snap of the football was enough to distract him.

And as we fast-forward to the present day, with playoff games due to occur in places like Buffalo and Pittsburgh, as well as in Kansas City and Green Bay, who knows what sort of crazy winter weather events may influence the proceedings yet to come!

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