According to George Carlin, “Football is played in any kind of weather: rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog. In baseball, if it rains, we don't go out to play.”
That enduring image of football in many eyes isn’t the 80-yard touchdown pass across a field of emerald green, it’s the sight of big men playing in mud-caked uniforms with breath billowing out from under their helmets.
So, while music pounds in the background and John “Voice of God” Facenda narrates the action, here are 10 games that would make George Carlin proud.
10) December 8, 2013 - Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles
It wasn't a surprise that there was snow in Philadelphia in the first week of December, the surprise was when the snowfall turned into a blizzard. It started snowing about two hours before kickoff, then intensified as the game got underway. By the time the storm was over six inches had fallen.
Reggie Bush was sidelined after slipping in pregame warm-ups and injuring his calf. Footing was so uncertain that, except for kickoffs, the placekickers stayed on the sidelines most of the afternoon. Both teams attempted two-point conversions after all touchdowns but one in the fourth quarter.
The score stayed tight until the fourth quarter. The Lions took the lead 20-14 on Jeremy Ross’ 98-yard kickoff return but after that the Eagles broke the game open. They scored three touchdowns in the final 12:20 for a 34-20 win.
Running back LeSean McCoy led the Eagles as he plowed through the snow for 217 yards on 29 carries and 2 touchdowns.
9) December 15, 2007 - Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns
The snow was blowing sideways off of Lake Erie through Cleveland Browns Stadium as both teams took the field , fighting for their playoff lives.
Jamal Lewis was the running back who pushed his way through the elements to give the Browns the advantage. He carried the ball 33 times for 163- yards to put kicker Phil Dawson in position to kick two field goals.
In the first quarter Dawson connected on a 35-yard field goal despite winds that were gusting up to 40 miles-per-hour. He outdid himself with a 49-yarder near the end of the second quarter to give the Browns the 8-0 lead that they held on to the rest of the game (the Browns picked up 2 points on a safety when the snap on a Bills’ punt attempt sailed out of the end zone).
With the win, the Browns moved into a tie for first place in the AFC North with the Steelers but failed to make the playoffs after losing the following week to the Cincinnati Bengals.
8) December 12, 2010 - The Metrodome Roof Collapse
Under normal circumstances, a team that plays in a dome doesn’t worry about how snow and ice will affect their game. That changed for the Vikings when a severe blizzard on December 10-11 dropped more than 17 inches of snow while strong winds made the Metrodome roof unsafe for the snow removal crew. The next morning at 5 a.m. three panels of the inflatable roof tore open. The roof collapsed as snow and ice spilled into the stadium.
The scheduled game between the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants had already been moved to the 13th because of safety concerns. Since the University of Minnesota’s stadium had already been shut down for the year and winterized, the game was postponed one more day to Tuesday and relocated to Ford Field in Detroit.
Tickets were given away for free to watch the Giants defeat the Vikings 21-3. The following week, the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium was prepared so the Vikings could play their final home game of the season against the Chicago Bears.
On the still frozen college field, Devin Hester scored two touchdowns on a 15-yard catch and 64-yard punt return to power the Bears to a 40-14 win.
7) December 1, 1985 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Green Bay Packers
Not much stops Packers fans from making the trip to Lambeau Field when their team is playing at home. On this day the game was sold out but only 19,856 made it to their seats to watch their team beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21-0. A foot of snow had already fallen by game-time and another four inches fell as the two teams slid up and down the field.
Steve Young was making his second start at quarterback for the Buccaneers after leaving the Los Angeles Express of the USFL. What made things difficult for Young was the Bucs were wearing their all white uniforms with orange stripes and numbers. He struggled to separate his receivers from the snowy backdrop all afternoon. Young completed 8 of 17 attempts in the game for 53 yards and 1 interception.
While the Bucs remained snow-bound all afternoon the Packers racked up 512 yards of total offense. Quarterback Lynn Dickey threw for 299 yards and running backs Eddie Lee Ivery and Gerry Ellis both rushed for over 100 yards, Ivery for 109 and Ellis for 101.
6) October 15, 1984 – Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos, Broncos Blizzard Game
The Packers and Broncos were preparing to play on the 200th telecast of Monday Night Football when snow began falling that afternoon. Attendance was still good, 62,546 fans made their way to Mile High Stadium before the real storm settled in. More than four inches of snow covered the field by the time the game was over.
The wind was swirling through the stadium, making it hard to see the players as they battled on the field. On the Packers’ first play from scrimmage they fumbled and the Broncos’ Steve Foley scooped it up and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown and 7-0 lead. On the play after the ensuing kickoff the Packers fumbled again. Louis Wright came up with the ball and returned it 27 yards for another Broncos touchdown.
The statistical surprise of the game was Packers quarterback Lynn Dickey completing 27 passes in 37 attempts for 371 yards. Other than that, the Broncos won the tough battle against the Packers and the elements 17-14.
5) January 12, 2008 – Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers, Playoffs Divisional Round
The snow swirled through Lambeau Field at kickoff and fell harder as play began. The Seahawks converted two early Ryan Grant fumbles into touchdowns to take a 14-0 lead.
As workers labored to keep the yard lines and hash marks clear the Packers struck back to tie and then take control of the game on their way to a 42-20 victory.
Ryan Grant recovered from his dismal start to rush 27 times for 201 yards and 3 touchdowns. Brett Favre defied the snowy conditions to complete 18 of 23 passes for 173 yards and 3 touchdowns.
The following week, at Lambeau Field on a bitter cold day, the Packers lost the NFC Championship Game to the New York Giants 23-20.
4) November 25, 1993 - Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys, Thanksgiving Day
Leon Lett was a scary good defensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys from 1991 to 2000, when he wasn’t injured or suspended, but it was two botched plays that he’s most known for.
In Super Bowl XXVII he recovered a fumble and was running it back for a touchdown when the Bills’ Don Beebe chased him down and knocked the ball out of his hand.
The Cowboys were ahead 52-17 at the time so no damage was done, except to Lett’s ego.
That Thanksgiving Day, snow and sleet bombarded Dallas and entered Cowboy Stadium through the hole in the roof, making the field messy and slick.
With 15 seconds left the Dolphins were down 14-13 but lining up for a game-winning field goal. Pete Stoyanovich’s attempt was blocked and all the Cowboys had to do was let the ball roll dead to win. Unaware of the rule, Lett raced back and tried to scoop up the loose ball.
He slid through the snow and knocked the ball back towards the 1-yard line where the Dolphins recovered. Stoyanovich came back out and nailed the chip-shot field goal for a 16-14 win. Ironically, this was the last game the Dolphins won in 1993. The Cowboys didn't lose again. They ran the table and beat the Bills 30-13 in Super Bowl XXVIII.
3) December 12, 1982 - The Snow Plow Game
In the strike shortened 1982 season the 2-3 Patriots, struggling to stay in the race for the postseason playoff tournament, hosted the 4-1 Dolphins. A heavy rain made the Schaefer Stadium turf into an ice rink then a blizzard started just after the game kicked off.
As conditions worsened the officials allowed a snowplow onto the field to clear the yard-lines and numbers but even that wasn’t enough to keep up with the heavily falling snow.
With 4:45 left to play and the ball on the Miami 26-yard line, Patriots coach Ron Meyer ordered the snowplow operator onto the field to clear a spot for kicker John Smith to attempt a field goal. Mark Henderson, a convicted burglar out on work release, began driving across the field then swerved to create a clean area for Matt Cavanaugh’s hold.
Smith’s kick was good and despite Don Shula’s vehement protests the play was allowed to stand. Later, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle decided that since there was no specific rule prohibiting the clearing of a snow-obscured field for a kick, the 3-0 score would stand.
In the New England Patriots’ Hall of Fame that snow plow hangs from the ceiling as a permanent exhibit.
2) January 19, 2002 - AFC Divisional Round; Tuck Rule Game
For the New England Patriots, this game was their first step to a dynasty. For the Oakland Raiders, it was another in a long list of grievances to hold against the NFL.
The Patriots started their final drive on their own 26, down 13-10 with 2:06 left in the game. On first down at the Oakland 42, Brady dropped back to pass. Charles Woodson came through on a blitz to knock the ball away for a fumble that the Raiders recovered. It appeared that with one kneel-down they would advance to the AFC Championship Game.
On a review of the play, referee Walt Coleman ruled that Brady’s arm had started forward, then came down as he pulled the ball back in. Coleman called the play an incomplete pass and awarded the ball back to the Patriots.
Brady completed one more pass for 13 yards and on fourth down with the ball on the Oakland 28, Adam Vinatieri came out to attempt a 45 yard field goal, which just slipped over the crossbar to tie the game at 13.
The Patriots received the ball in overtime and after 14 plays, were on the Oakland five yard line. Vinatieri and his holder started clearing snow from the spot when Oakland called timeout to try and “ice” him. They finished clearing the surrounding ground and he made the 23-yard field goal for a New England victory.
The Patriots went on to win their first championship in franchise history by defeating the St. Louis Rams 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI.
1) December 19, 1948 - NFL Championship Game
Shibe Park in Philadelphia was sold out for the rematch of the previous year’s NFL Championship Game. In 1947 the Cardinals defeated the Eagles 28-21 at Comiskey Park in Chicago to win their second NFL title.
The snowstorm in Philadelphia had reached its highest intensity at kickoff, dropping 2” of snow per hour. Cardinals and Eagles players helped the grounds crew remove the tarp from the field so the game could be kicked off. The chalk yard lines came up with the tarp so ropes tied to sticks marked the sidelines and end zone. Commissioner Bert Bell declared that referee Ron Gibbs would have to use his judgment to rule first down yardage on the field.
The game became a ground war with Steve Van Buren pounding the ball for the Eagles against Elmer Angsman, Pat Harder and Charlie Trippi for the Cardinals.
In the fourth quarter, Frank “Bucko” Kilroy recovered an Angsman fumble at the Cardinals’ 17-yard line. Four plays later, Van Buren plunged into the end zone from 6 yards out for the only score of the game and give the Eagles their first championship in franchise history.