Only one of the two NFL conference championship games this weekend will be played outdoors. The Patriots will host the Ravens on Sunday night in Foxboro, Mass., in expected gusty winds and temperatures just around freezing. Unless the forecast changes significantly in the next two days, it looks unlikely that weather will play a significant role in the outcome of that game — which is a bit disappointing, because there’s nothing better than a football game played outdoors in the frigid cold.
Or the pouring rain. Or the suffocating fog. Weather is the “X factor” that can take a great game and turn it into a classic.
Below, we take a look at the best bad-weather games in football history.
8. Super Bowl XLI – Indianapolis Colts vs. Chicago Bears, 2007
It wasn’t a torrential downpour that landed this game on this list — the rain was bad, but it wasn’t worse than a handful of games that happen in pouring rain every NFL season. What makes it remarkable is that it was — and still is — the only Super Bowl game ever played in inclement weather. That will likely change next year, when Super Bowl XLVIII is held outdoors at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
One of the most memorable moments from Super Bowl XLI wasn’t even part of the competition — it was Prince’s incredible performance of “Purple Rain,” in the real Miami rain. Some called it the greatest moment in Super Bowl halftime history — at least in terms of actual musicianship.
7. “Fog Bowl” – Philadelphia Eagles at Chicago Bears, 1988 NFL Playoffs
At about the two-minute warning in the first half of the 1988 playoff game between the Bears and Eagles at Soldier Field, a dense fog rolled into the stadium. At first, people didn’t realize what was happening — the fog was so thick that some fans theorized it was smoke from a nearby fire.
Officials decided to continue the game despite the fog, even though players and coaches complained of extremely low visibility — some said they couldn’t see the sideline, nor the down and distance — and the television broadcast was hilariously difficult to follow.
6. “Mud Bowl” – Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Toronto Argonauts – 1950 Grey Cup
Did you know they have bad weather outside the U.S. borders? They play football, too. Though the 1950 Grey Cup (CFL championship) game is unknown to most NFL fans, it deserves inclusion on this list because of how aesthetically unique it was.
The game took place in late November at Toronto’s Varsity Field. It snowed heavily the day before the game and the equipment used to clear the snow off the field ended up doing significant damage to the turf. One game day, the snow turned to rain and the field turned into a giant mud pit.
Neither team was able to get much offense going, as players slid all over the field and everyone ended up looking like a Golgothan, the poop demon from the movie Dogma (or coeds on spring break — take your pick).
5. 2007 NFC Championship – New York Giants at Green Bay Packers
One of the coldest NFL games in recent memory (the wind-chill reached a reported -24 F) was especially bitter for Brett Favre, as he threw an interception on what turned out to be his last pass as a member of the Green Bay Packers — on a play where every other receiver on the team was open.
Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes hit the winning field goal in overtime, sending the Giants on to the Super Bowl, where they defeated the undefeated New England Patriots.
4. “Snowplow Game” – Miami Dolphins at New England Patriots – Week 6, 1982
Want to create the ideal conditions for havoc on a football field? Heavy rain + a dramatic drop in temperature + a heavy snowstorm = chaos. It was bad enough that the Astroturf in Schaefer Stadium was covered in snow when the Patriots hosted the Dolphins in Week 6 of 1982’s strike-shortened NFL season. Making matters even worse was that underneath the snow was, essentially, a skating rink.
An emergency ground rule was established for the game, allowing the referee to call time-out periodically so that a snowplow could clear the yard markers on the field. Even with this rule in place, the field was covered in snow and no one knew where they were on the field most of the time.
Late in the game, Patriots coach Ron Meyer went over the officials’ heads and ordered a snowplow driver (a prisoner on work release!) to clear a spot for his kicker, John Smith, to attempt a field goal. Smith’s kick was good — the only points of the game — and the Patriots stole a victory.
3. “Freezer Bowl” – San Diego Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals – 1982 AFC Championship
This game had a -59 F wind-chill, the coldest temperate of any NFL game ever. When the commentator in the video below says that a player was “stopped cold,” he really, really means it.
Incredibly, Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson was able to feel his fingers enough to throw for 161 yards and two touchdowns. The Bengals won the game 27-7 to advance to the Super Bowl.
2. “Tuck Rule Game” – Oakland Raiders at New England Patriots – 2001 AFC Championship
In one of the most polarizing games in NFL history — either you know Tom Brady fumbled the ball before his arm came forward or you know it was an incomplete pass — the Patriots defeated the Raiders in the middle of a blinding blizzard.
Adam Vinatieri nailed a seemingly impossible 45-yard field goal late in the game — probably the most clutch kick in NFL history, considering how much snow was on the field. In overtime, the Patriots managed to clear off a small patch of grass before Vinatieri kicked the field goal that sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl. The Belichick-Brady era of dominance’s birth can be traced to this game.
1. “Ice Bowl” – Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers – 1967 NFL Championship Game
Packers fans are among the most passionate — and hearty — people in the world. Still, it must have taken tremendous courage for each of the 50,000+ fans who stepped out into the frigid Green Bay air and walked inside Lambeau Stadium to watch their Packers take on the Cowboys to determine which team would meet the AFL champions in Super Bowl II.
It wasn’t just the extreme temperature (a reported -13 F) that made this game so memorable — it was the drama on the field. Both two teams pushed themselves to the limits of human strength and endurance and the Packers ultimately prevailed, by the score of 27-17, following a Bart Starr touchdown on a called quarterback sneak with mere seconds remaining on the clock.
If you have an hour to spare, the documentary below is well worth a watch. If you want to skip ahead and watch the most dramatic moment, just click here.