by Rob Joyce
Sunday was bitterly cold in Minnesota. Blair Walsh missing a 27-yarder that would have most likely won the game for the Vikings didn’t help any for the hometown faithful, but it made their three-plus hour day in the freezing cold even more agonizing. It took until the fourth quarter for the temperature to reach zero and the final score (10-9) represented how hard it was to move the football.
But as cold as it was in Minneapolis, where does it rank in NFL history? Here are the five coldest games ever:
5) 1980-81 AFC Divisional Playoffs (Browns vs. Raiders):
At one point the temperature was minus-five degrees for the 77,000-plus fans that were at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, with wind chills reaching 31-below. However, they were treated to a classic, as the Raiders took a 14-12 lead early in the fourth quarter on a Mark van Eeghen one-yard touchdown run. The Browns eventually had the ball at the Oakland 13, needing only a field goal to win. Coming out of a timeout, quarterback Brian Sipe and coach Sam Rutigliano called a pass play, which was picked off in the end zone to secure a Raiders victory. The play – known as “Red Right 88” lives in Cleveland infamy.
4) 1995-96 AFC Divisional Playoffs (Chiefs vs. Colts):
Kansas City was the AFC’s top-seed heading into the playoffs and hadn’t lost at home all home. The minus-six degree weather was supposed to be another major disadvantage for Indianapolis, who played their home games in a dome (and still do). Despite the seeming edge towards KC – Indy was also missing two key starters in Marshall Faulk and Tony Siragusa – the Colts shut out the Chiefs in the second half and forced three Steve Bono interceptions. Offensively, Jim Harbaugh did just enough for Indy to outlast KC 10-7 to advance to the AFC title game.
3) 2015-16 NFC Wild Card Round (Vikings vs. Seahawks):
There was a minus-25 degree wind chill during Sunday’s game, as the Vikings handed out free coffee and hand warmers to the 52,090 fans who packed TCF Bank Stadium. However, it wasn’t too cold for Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant. The 88-year-old, who coached in the CFL for a decade and spent nearly two more as the Vikings’ coach, went out for the ceremonial coin toss in a short-sleeved polo.
As for the game, Minnesota has had some brutal playoff finishes (notably the NFC Championship Games in 1998 and 2009), and this one ranks right up there.
2) 1981-82 AFC Championship Game (Bengals vs. Chargers):
Dubbed “The Freezer Bowl”, the temperature of minus-nine degrees was flat-out balmy compared to the wind chill – which hit minus-59 degrees at one point. Compare that to the week before for San Diego, when they played in the 88-degree heat of Miami. It was so cold that little icicles formed on Dan Fouts’ beard.
Cincinnati rolled in the regular season meeting 40-7 between the two, and the Bengals once again controlled things throughout. They were up 10-0 after one quarter and waltzed to a 27-7 victory.
1) 1967 NFL Championship (Packers vs. Cowboys):
A rematch of the 1966 NFL Championship, it is considered one of the greatest games in football history, to which the cold only added lore. “The Ice Bowl” officially checked in at minus-13 degrees at its worst, with a minus-48 degree windchill at Lambeau Field. It was so cold that the referees couldn’t blow their whistles (they shouted to announce the end of plays), the marching band scheduled to perform couldn’t get their brass instruments to play and the moisture on the field froze over, forming an ice rink of a playing surface.
However, it led to one of the gutsiest playcalls in NFL history. Down 17-14, the Packers took over with 4:50 to play, slowly marching down the field until they had third-and-goal from the inside the one-yard line with 16 seconds left and no timeouts. The running backs couldn’t make any progress because they were slipping on the ice, but the offensive lineman could block. So instead of attempting a pass, Starr convinced Lombardi that he could run it in. When the quarterback called the play – designed to be a handoff to the fullback – he didn’t tell his teammates he was going to run it in himself. The play worked, and the Packers won their third straight NFL championship.