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NFL Football Is Better in the Snow; a Super Bowl Will Be, Too

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NFL Football Is Better in the Snow; a Super Bowl Will Be, Too
Elsa/Getty Images

Crazy.

That's the word many players used to describe the snow on Sunday that surprisingly blanketed much of the Northeastern United States, covering stadiums from Green Bay to Washington, D.C. and several places in between.

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Mychal Kendricks told reporters after the Eagles' 34-20 victory over the Detroit Lions—via CSNPhilly.com's Geoff Mosher—“It was craaaaaa-zy. You always see games in snow on TV. You play games in Madden in snow. I always thought it would be fun, but I never really wanted it. I had played in rainy games, and they were terrible."

“It was so freakin’ fun.”

It was so freaking fun, that it has people (read: this guy) excited for more. More snow. Playoff snow. Super Bowl snow.

The football world has seemed so utterly concerned about a cold weather Super Bowl and the logistical nightmares—parking and travel concerns, mostly—that come with a game in the New York area that we may have lost sight of something very important: Football in the snow is awesome. 

The NFL has had several Super Bowls in cold weather cities when the game is indoors, but an outdoor setting like we got around much of the NFL on Sunday would be the exact reason to have a game in a cold weather town, not a reason against it. It's awesome, and a snowy Super Bowl would be awesome too.

 

Elsa/Getty Images

A Philly-Style Blizzard 

The forecast called for sleet and light snow in Philadelphia, with accumulation expected to start around halftime. At the start of the game between division leaders Philadelphia and Detroit—a game with enormous playoff implications—there were as many as four inches on the field, and the blizzard-like conditions in the first half grew the snow piles to eight inches by the break. The conditions took everyone by surprise. For many, especially on the winning side, it was a pleasant surprise.

Play was incredibly slow in the early part of the game, but as the snow tapered off, the action picked up. In all, 46 of the game's combined 54 points were scored in the second half—oddly, none came via a kicker, despite a combined 18 points scored on special teams—and while the field was blanketed by mountains of snow for the entire game, the final two quarters were wide open and, well, crazy.

Detroit return man Jeremy Ross scored two touchdowns on kick returns—one punt and one kickoff—and said of the conditions, "That was the worst I ever played in. The snow kept clogging the bottom of my cleats. I felt like I had heels on," via NFL.com

Ross had a career day, so the snow couldn't have been too bad for him, despite the loss. Eagles running back LeSean McCoy also had a career day, rushing for a team-record 217 yards and two scores in the victory. He seemed a bit happier after the game. All the Eagles did.

“They really enjoyed it," Chip Kelly said, via CSNPhilly.com, after the victory. "They had a lot of fun. They kind of probably went back to when they were little kids running around out there.” 

 

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Crazy, Crazy, Everywhere

It seemed crazy everywhere it snowed—not just in Philly but a few hours south and north and west as well. Most of the players had never played in snow before. Some admitted they had never even seen snow.

Baltimore Ravens rookie receiver Marlon Brown told reporters, via Nicholas Fouriezos of The Baltimore Sun, "It was crazy. That was the first time I saw real, real snow, falling down, more than a couple of centimeters."

They don't play in too many blizzards at Georgia (Brown's college team), nor do they get many at Florida, where fellow rookie Matt Elam played last season. Despite getting beat on a cutback by Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson for what seemed at the time like a game-winning touchdown reception, Elam told reporters, "I've never even been outside in conditions like this. I was so excited to be playing in the snow."

Getting the win certainly helped, too.

Like in Philly, the second half in Baltimore was as crazy as the weather. The Ravens scored a touchdown with four seconds left to beat the Vikings 29-26, with 42 of the game's combined 55 points coming in the fourth quarter, 36 of which came in the final 2:07 of the game. 

Even some of the Vikings had fun in the elements, despite the loss. Jared Allen told reporters, again via The Baltimore Sun, "It was kind of fun out there. We don't get to play in those conditions often. All of us were goofing around with the guys driving snow plows."

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

Things got crazy in Pittsburgh, too, as the Steelers nearly came back to beat the Miami Dolphins on a hook and lateral play that would have worked had Antonio Brown not stepped on the sideline as he was scampering through the snow into the end zone. That would have been the most improbable finish to a week full of improbability.

Brown did step out, though, and the Dolphins got out of Pittsburgh with a 34-28 victory to keep pace with the Ravens for the final AFC wild-card spot. Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill seemed to enjoy the experience as well. 

"It was fun. [The weather] wasn't too bad," Tannehill told reporters after the game, via The Palm Beach Post's Greg Stoda. "Early in the game, the snow was coming down pretty good, but the ball felt good all day. You're warm on the sideline and once you get on the field, you feel good. It wasn't anything where it affected the game too much, besides the footing."

There was far less accumulation in Pittsburgh than in Philadelphia or Baltimore, but the early conditions did impact scoring, as just 17 of the game's 62 points came before halftime.

After the break—and after much of the field was cleared—the craziness really got going.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In Washington, the snow-induced craziness may have been one-sided, as the Kansas City Chiefs rolled the Redskins to the tune of 45-10, which included a career day for return man Dexter McCluster who told reporters, via Vahe Gregorian of KansasCity.com, “I think the snow played a big part in this game because a lot of guys were slipping and sliding … even me … so that opened a lot of opportunities for me to get up the field and find the right hole.”

“You feel like a little kid.”

 

Jeffrey G. Pittenger-USA TODAY S

A Bunch of Kids

McCluster felt like a little kid. Kelly said his Eagles played like they were little kids having fun in the snow. Even DeSean Jackson, who is from California and never played snow football as a kid, said he loved the experience.

“When you’re a kid from California, you dream about playing in weather like this,” Jackson told reporters, via CSNPhilly.com. “It’s always sunny there and it barely rains. As a kid growing up you dream about playing in snow and having fun and [sliding] around. We were able to weather our own storm and get it done.”

You know who else felt like kids out there? The fans.

Green Bay is used to snowy Sundays, but Packers fans surely enjoyed the weather even more this week with a much-needed 22-21 comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Despite the loss at home, Steelers fans were treated to one of the best games of the day, bested perhaps by only the Vikings versus the Ravens. And while the first half of the Eagles game featured terrible football in almost every way, the second half provided some amazing memories for the players and the fans.

"This is football weather," said Eagles tight end Brent Celek, via Bob Ford of The Philadelphia Inquirer. "I know the fans were loving it, too. They'll talk about this game forever. 'Remember when it snowed?' "

The fans in Baltimore will remember it, too. Nicholas Fouriezos of The Baltimore Sun talked to a Ravens fan who said,"I actually never imagined myself coming to a cold, snowy game. This is probably the best experience I've had. I've been to a lot of games, but never like this."

 

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

A Super Bowl Never Like This

All this snowy craziness leads us to the Super Bowl. 

What does a snowy day in the Northeast in December have to do with the Super Bowl that's nearly two months away?

Everything. Especially when the game is going to be in New Jersey on Feb. 2, the snow means everything.

Since the decision was made to host a "New York" Super Bowl, critics have been lamenting the chance of horrible weather impacting the sport's most important game of the year. Seeing the scene around the Northeast on Sunday would give any detractor pause.

But it was awesome. Even with three-quarters of a foot of snow on the ground in some stadiums, it was a level playing field. And it was awesome.

Taking a look at the standings, the chances of an epic snow playoff game are relatively slim. Sure, the weather around the country has proven it could snow just about anywhere, but other than New England and Denver, there aren't too many snowy cities in line to host outdoor playoff games. Maybe Philly will be if the Eagles win the NFC East, but most of the other cities are either full of rain or are indoors.

An outdoor, cold-weather championship game has the chance to be amazing—a Super Bowl like never before.

Logistics be damned. Football just looks better in the snow. Visually, the game has a majestic feel when the turf is coated in white. Even in Green Bay, where the field was covered with just a dusting of snow, the look of the game just felt more…footbally.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The snow was so striking in the early games on Sunday that when the highlights (or NFL Redzone) cut to games without snow, it felt like we were being cheated in some way. Oh…ordinary football? Yeah, that's nice, but can you cut back to one of the games we'll never forget? The ones with all the snow. 

We would never forget a Super Bowl in the snow, just like we never forget legendary games like the Ice Bowl or, heck, that Thanksgiving game in Dallas when Leon Lett slid in the snow. I'm almost to the point where if it doesn't snow, I'll feel somehow cheated. Putting the game in the Northeast demands snow. 

We demand it snow on Feb. 2. As long as it doesn't snow too much.

 

Elsa/Getty Images

Please Snow, But Not Too Much

It almost snowed too much in Philadelphia. With nearly eight inches in spots on the field, kicking was completely taken out of the game and, for much of the first half when the snow was really coming down, so was passing and catching the ball. 

The football was not of the highest quality early on, but the players were able to figure out their footing, and the coaches were able to call offensive plays that took advantage of the elements, punts and kicks notwithstanding. When the snow slowed down, the action picked up.

Boy, did it pick up.

A blizzard would not be great for the Super Bowl, no. As amazing as it might look, deciding the championship of the NFL in a foot of snow wouldn't be remembered for the reasons a day like this Sunday will be.

So we want snow—but in inches, not feet. And maybe for part of the game, but not all of it. Can someone make that happen, please?

I don't think Roger Goodell is quite that powerful, so Mother Nature may have more to say about the conditions of the Super Bowl than any forces within the NFL.

Mother Nature, however, may be a fan of football in the snow as well.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Playing the percentages, if there is any precipitation on Feb. 2 in the New York area, light snow is probably what we should expect. According to WeatherSpark.com, there is a 17 percent probability of light snow at some point in the day in early February. There is just a seven percent chance of moderate snow at that time of year and, overall, a 27 percent chance of any snow at all. 

Historically, if there is snow on the ground in New York, it's usually no more than two or three inches at that time of year, so all the fear of recent blizzards—trust me, I've shoveled out of my fair share over the last five years—are statistically irrational.

Heck, in a memorable day of snowy vistas, the Meadowlands was spared any accumulation on Sunday. So even if it snows in the Northeast, there is no guarantee that it will hit East Rutherford. 

In all likelihood, the Super Bowl is just going to be blustery and cold. In other words, football weather.

While that alone will make it one of the more memorable games in Super Bowl history, there is a 1-in-4 chance that we will get a Super Bowl Sunday like the Sunday we just had, giving all of us—players and fans—that chance to feel like kids again.

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