A Look At The Coldest Playoff Games In NFL History As Patriots, Bills Set To Battle In Frigid Conditions

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NFL playoff game weather: Breakdown of what to expect this weekendAccuWeather's Jessica Pash has a breakdown of what you can expect from Buffalo to Dallas when teams face off this coming weekend.Accuweather

ORCHARD PARK - Stefon Diggs wanted to make one thing perfectly clear. The Buffalo Bills wide receiver doesn’t like being tackled, period, and when he catches a pass he’ll try everything he can to avoid getting taken to the ground.

And that’s when it’s sunny and 80 degrees outside, or inside a climate-controlled dome. When it’s five degrees and minus-10 or 15 wind chill, as it is forecast to be Saturday night when the Bills host the New England Patriots in an AFC wild-card playoff game, he really wants no part of going to the ground.

“It’s going to be cold as (expletive),” Diggs said. “I’m never trying to get tackled, for real — hot, cold, it don’t matter. But I’ll be doing my best to try to stay off that (frozen) ground, especially getting hit a bunch of times.”

Diggs is not alone on this point. Anyone who truly believes that NFL players don’t mind playing in the arctic conditions that are expected Saturday isn’t in touch with reality.

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None of these guys like it, but what they do, because they are professionals, is accept it. When you sign up to play in Buffalo in particular, or Green Bay, or several other Northeast and upper Midwest cities, cold weather for the playoffs is part of the deal.

“It’s going to be cold for both teams,” said quarterback Josh Allen, among the players who will be most affected by the bone-chilling air. “It’ll be a challenge. It’s not fun getting hit in the cold, it’s not fun catching hard passes in the cold. Getting off the ground is a little more exhausting throughout the course of the game. It’s more of a mental barrier than it is a physical barrier, if anything, but again, we’ve got to do our best to not let the elements limit us to what we can do.”

Playing in temperatures only a polar bear would love, or playing in snow better suited for a slalom course as opposed to football, has been part of the fabric of Bills’ football for six-plus decades.

Interestingly, Saturday will be the 28th anniversary of the coldest game in Bills history - Jan. 15, 1994 when the Los Angeles Raiders showed up at Rich Stadium for a divisional round game when it was 0 degrees with a wind-chill of minus-32. The Bills won 29-23.

That broke the record that was set just a little more than two weeks before when it was 9 degrees with a minus-28 wind chill as the Bills clinched their fifth AFC East division title in six years with a 16-14 victory over the Jets.

For that one, a Christmas Eve snowstorm dumped more than 20 inches of snow in Orchard Park and the team had to summon the public’s help - on a holiday - to shovel out the stadium. “I told them I hope our team shows as much spunk tomorrow as you’re showing right now,” coach Marv Levy said as he watched hundreds of people on Christmas Day helping out. “I looked up and had a great admiration for those people. They were a big part of the excitement of the afternoon.”

There have been countless other games when a less enthusiastic and hardy fan base would have opted for the couch rather than going to the stadium, and now another of those is upon us.

Center Mitch Morse tipped his hat to the fans that plan on showing up in a playful way. “First, it’s a huge sense of pride to see a fan base support you through that. And then you also question the inebriation level of some of these people. I think the chef from the Titanic, he jumped off, and he survived because he was pretty drunk, so you think that maybe some of these people are just blasted. 

“But truthfully, it’s tremendous pride, especially in the fact that this year in particular, I don’t think besides maybe the Washington game, we haven’t had very good weather, and the fans have not deviated from showing their support and coming out and having a good time, and being loud and being very supportive.”

What should be discomforting for Bills fans - and I’m not talking about the people who won’t be “blasted” as they brave the conditions - is that weather can often narrow the talent disparity between teams. That’s not great for the better team which is the Bills, and all you have to do is look back to the two games against the Patriots in December.

When the winds howled in Orchard Park, it favored the Patriots because Allen and the Buffalo passing game was largely neutralized, while the Patriots relied on their strong running game and that proved to be a huge factor as New England won 14-10.

Three weeks later in Foxborough, the weather was fine, and you saw the Bills able to use their full offensive arsenal and the result was Allen passing for 314 yards and three TDs in a 33-21 victory.

True to form, Patriots coach Bill Belichick downplayed everything meteorological, saying the other day, “I’m more worried about the Bills than the weather. That’s who we have to beat.”

When it’s as cold as it will be Saturday, it’s simply harder to be at your best, harder to be an elite athlete.

“You’ve got to stay as warm and stretched out as humanly possible because again, if you’re sitting on the bench for an extended period of time your body will start doing different things,” Allen said. “You feel a little tighter, you feel like you can’t get to top speed, so more so for skill guys just making sure that they’re staying ready to go. But again, it’s just what it is and we’ve got to deal with it and find a way to put our best foot forward considering that.”

Allen has never seen conditions like he will Saturday. Yes, he has played in cold weather, but this will be extreme and he will have to find a way to deal with it if the Bills hope to move on to the divisional round.

“I don’t know why I’ve got bad circulation within my feet; my toes get really cold and they go numb a little bit, so keeping those suckers as warm and as dry as possible as well as the hands - obviously, that’s a big emphasis for quarterbacks, you need your hands to throw - so keeping those extremities as warm as possible,” he said.

He believes he’ll be able to do it.

“Throughout the course of the game when you’re on the field you don’t really feel it too much,” he said. “It doesn’t affect you too bad when you’ve got adrenaline flowing and your mind is on so many different other things. You know it’s not a crazy, difficult thing to overcome, but early on especially it can be tough and you’ve gotta get over it.”

Diggs has an idea of what’s coming. When he was with the Vikings, they were forced to play the 2015 season outdoors at the University of Minnesota while their new dome stadium was being built. On Jan. 10, 2016 in an NFC wild-card game there against Seattle, it was minus-6 with a wind-chill of minus-25.

Diggs was held to four catches for 26 yards, the teams combined for just 409 yards, and the Vikings lost 10-9 when kicker Blair Walsh missed a last-second 27-yard field goal. 

“I’m not too much of a complainer, and I played in one of the coldest games in history,” he said. “It was like negative something. So this ain’t nothing. I’ll be alright.”

Source : https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2022/01/15/bills-patriots-coldest-nfl-history-josh-allen-feet-stefon-diggs/6538946001/

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