Baseball may be America’s national pastime, but NFL football is the king of North American sports from September to December. One would think that football is a game that would be reserved for the summertime, but since it’s played in fall and winter, the added element of weather can sometimes play a factor in big games. It’s in honor of those occurrences that we countdown the top 10 bad weather NFL Games. This list is no doubt features a wide variety of Mother Nature’s wrath. Bad weather can come in so many different forms. We’re talking rain, snow, extreme heat, hail or whatever the forecast calls for. It goes without saying that most of these games took place in the northeastern United States, where snow tends to rear its ugly head by November. Cleveland, New York and New England in particular have been pelted by snow and collectively appear on this list six times.
The one game we’re featuring here between the Patriots and the Oakland Raiders led to the re-emergence of the modern-day tuck rule, which is still widely misunderstood by coaches and fans everywhere. Nevertheless we digress because this list isn’t about shoddy rules that give Tom Brady and the boys the benefit of the doubt, it’s about the weather, which has treated all players equally horrible throughout the history of the NFL as you’ll see. Weather is just one of the reasons football is considered a tough sport and it makes us wonder why baseball gets called for a rain delay when it’s just spitting outside. Some of these NFL games looked like they were played while the earth was heading into an Ice Age, and yet we still enjoyed watching them. Hold onto your hats and thank you lucky stars that you are most likely indoors while reading this… because the players involved in these games probably wished they were in the press box instead of on the field during these games.
Honorable Mention: Miami Dolphins @ Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 12, 2007
This game doesn’t make the top 10 because it was an incredibly sloppy affair, with wet conditions and thunderstorms even delaying the game. The Steelers emerged victorious on their home field, 3-0 against a winless Dolphins team. The game was seen by a national audience on Monday Night Football and the action was a snoozefest, with many fans even leaving early, despite the close score. However, the uniqueness of the conditions merits a mention. Heck, it has just about the weirdest punt you’ll ever see.
Many wondered if the game would end in a scoreless tie, which would’ve been the first since 1943 and the only one since overtime was established in 1974. Steelers kicker Jeff Reed finally managed to score the game’s only points, on a 24-yard field goal with 17 seconds remaining.
10. Oakland Raiders @ Cleveland Browns, AFC Divisional Round, 1980-81
This game featured two teams battling it out in a playoff atmosphere that featured a -36°F cold with the wind chill. That’s pretty darn cold. The Browns had their share of chances to win the game but the kicker had already missed two field-goal attempts earlier in the contest before a potential game-winning drive was snubbed by the Raiders. The wind allowed the ball to stay in the air on a pass that was intercepted near the end zone, handing the Raiders a win.
9. Buffalo Bills @ Cleveland Browns, Week 15, 2007
Coming into this game against the Cleveland Browns the Buffalo Bills had won six of their last eight games. Neither team has made the playoffs in recent years and it’s games like this that make you wonder if both teams are at a disadvantage through part of the winter season. The national anthem is probably the only time the fans knew what was going on because there was so much snow on the field and the visibility was so low. That said, based on the way the last eight seasons have played out, neither team has done that well even when sight lines are clear anyway.
8. San Francisco 49ers @ Green Bay Packers, 1996-97 NFC Divisional Round
The only thing worse than heavy snowfall is apparently wet snowfall. That’s the type of weather fans experienced at Lambeau Field back in 1996 in a game featuring the Packers and the 49ers. There were 49 total points, with the Packers accounting for 35 of them, which isn’t bad at all and doesn’t necessarily indicate bad weather, but the fact that the two teams combined for 275 passing yards total definitely shows you what kind of game it was…a sloppy one.
7. Miami Dolphins @ New England Patriots, Week 6, 1982
Forget about Deflate-Gate, or that time back in the day when the New England Patriots videotaped another team’s practices secretly. The Patriots organization’s cheating ways go way back to the early 1980s, when the team was mysteriously allowed to snow plow a path to victory and kicked a late field goal on a snow-covered field that led to a 3-0 win. How the heck is that even allowed? A snow plow in the middle of the game that clearly favors one team? Wow.
6. Chicago Bears @ New York Giants, 1934 NFL Championship Game
The year 1934 may have been a long time ago, but that doesn’t mean some of the keys to the game, proper footing in particular, weren’t as important as they are today. The Giants knew that…so when freezing rain covered the field, the team borrowed shoes from Manhattan’s college basketball team at halftime and beat the Bears for the title, a team that hadn’t lost in 18 games coming into the final contest. Thank goodness for keeping your college friends close, you never know when you’re going to have to borrow a pair of shoes.
5. 1948 NFL Championship Philadelphia Eagles @ Chicago Cardinals
This game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Cardinals was the first NFL Championship game ever broadcast on television. The weather was so bad that the game was nearly postponed. The players decided to tough it out and play but before they could even get underway, they had to help the grounds crew clean up the field. Philadelphia scored the only touchdown of the game for the 7-0 win. Remember the time when the Buffalo Bills offered to pay fans to help shovel snow off of the field in 2014 and the fans basically said no, moving a home game to Detroit? Fans and players have clearly gotten way more snobby and pompous over the last 50 years.
4. Oakland Raiders @ New England Patriots, 2001-02 AFC Divisional Playoffs
Since Tom Brady took over as quarterback for the New England Patriots, the franchise has won four Super Bowl titles. Needless to say the team has been one of the most dominant franchises in football over that span, and this game against the Oakland Raiders back in 2001 acted as the propeller for all of it. The tuck rule had to be brought back from the dead in order to justify a controversial call on a fumble that ultimately helped the Patriots win the game…and boy oh boy was their snow on the ground. Is it just us or do the Patriots seem to be the biggest beneficiaries of the rulebook over the last 15 years? First coaches are videotaping other team’s practices, then we had the tuck rule and most recently Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts fell victim to deflate-gate. Oh yeah, and the Seattle Seahawks basically gave them the 2015 Super Bowl title. It wouldn’t be surprising in the least if a scandal relating to that last passing play that happens to reveal itself sometime next season.
3. Philadelphia Eagles @ Chicago Bears, 1988-89 NFC Divisional Round
Up until this point we’ve mostly talked about snow and rain as the cause of bad weather, but in this game back in 1988, it was fog that was the culprit. Fans had a tough time watching the game from the stands, never mind those who watched it on television at home. The referee had to announce each play on his microphone because even the players on the sidelines had trouble seeing the field. The Bears prevailed by a score of 20-12. No word on how many guys got hammered going over the middle in this game, but given most drivers can’t see two traffic lights in front of themselves on a foggy day, one can only imagine what it’s like to be a pro football player risking your body when you have no idea.
2. San Diego Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals, 1981 AFC Championship Game
This game was dubbed The Freezer Bowl. It was -59 Farenheit (-51 Celsius) with the wind chill, making it the coldest NFL game in history when accounting the wind chill. The Cincinnati Bengals won and advanced to the Super Bowl for the first time in franchise history. The San Diego Chargers on the other hand appeared to be paralyzed by the freezing temperatures, and even with three future Hall of Famers on the offensive side of the ball, the team just couldn’t get anything going. To say the least, -59 degrees Fahrenheit would be tough for beach boys from San Diego to overcome during any time in the year, but especially in the playoffs.
This was especially challenging for the Chargers as they had just played in one of the hottest games in NFL history a week prior in Miami, playing a long overtime game in scorching heat and humidity.
Obviously the Bengals had a huge advantage in this game.
1. Dallas Cowboys @ Green Bay Packers, 1967 NFL Championship Game
When the referee blew the whistle to start this game it got stuck to his lips. That is how cold it was at Lambeau Field and that is why this game is affectionately known as The Ice Bowl. The wind-chill brought the game-time temperature down to -47°F. It still holds the record for the coldest air temperature in an NFL game (-15 Farenheit, -25 Celsius) This game alone is probably the reason why today’s Super Bowl title games are historically played in warm weather climates or indoor stadiums. The Packers won late in come-from-behind fashion. To put the ice cold temperatures on that day in Wisconsin in perspective, consider that the game time forecast the last time the Super Bowl was held in an outdoor stadium, in New York at MetLife in the game featuring the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks in 2014, the temperature was 49 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s right…a full 102 degrees warmer than the game was in 1967…Wow!
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