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Saturday night in Buffalo, the forecast calls for temperatures in the single digits, with a low of 7 degrees. If the mercury does go that low, it would end up being the third-coldest game in Patriots’ history, and the coldest game they’ve ever played in Buffalo.
As a franchise, New England has embraced the big chill; of the 12 games the Patriots have played in temperatures 20 degrees or colder since 1970, they are 9-3. In that same span, the Patriots have posted a 61-29 record in games where the kickoff temperature is 34 degrees or colder and are 16-2 in postseason cold-weather games.
Of course, almost all those totals came with Tom Brady at the controls. Thanks in part to a scuba suit he started wearing under his uniform to keep him warm, the northern California native was almost always at his best when it got below freezing. This weekend, Mac Jones — who went to high school in Florida and played at Alabama — will not only be playing in his first career playoff game Saturday night, it figures to be the coldest game of his professional career.
If Jones needs some inspiration when it comes to finding success in the cold weather, he can look to some of the great Patriots performances of the past 20-plus years. Here are four of the most memorable cold-weather games of the Bill Belichick era.
Jan. 10, 2004
Divisional round vs. Titans: It was four degrees at kickoff; with the wind chill, it was -10. The conditions made you feel like an extra on “The Day After Tomorrow.” With the benefit of time, the game has taken on a Bill Brasky-like legend of its own . Beers froze solid in the short time in took to get from the concession stands to the seats. Ears and fingers and toes were frostbitten. Cars needed multiple jump-starts in the parking lot after the game. A group of Tennessee offensive linemen decided to act like hardos and not wear sleeves under their uniform. Big mistake. At one point, an NFL Films cameraman caught one of them on the sidelines saying “I’m freaking out.”
The Titans were a tough out. New England battled to a 14-7 halftime lead behind a Tom Brady touchdown pass to Bethel Johnson (pictured) and an Antowain Smith touchdown. The Titans tied it late in the third, but one of the most underrated field goals of Adam Vinatieri’s career — a 46-yarder that must have felt like kicking a bowling ball, given the sub-zero temperatures — proved to be the eventual game winner with 4:06 left. New England beat Indy in the AFC title game, and finished off its championship run with a victory over Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII.
Jan. 23, 2005
AFC championship game at Steelers: Eleven degrees when the game started, but the wind chill put it at -1. It was so rowdy at kickoff you could feel the Heinz Field press box wobble.
Brady had been sick with the flu all week, but rallied New England to a 24-3 halftime lead, which included a 60-yard touchdown pass to Deion Branch and a pick-six from Rodney Harrison off rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. New England cruised to a 41-27 win; two weeks later, the Patriots beat the Eagles to win Super Bowl XXXIX, finishing off the Keystone State sweep.
Dec. 21, 2017
Regular season vs. Jets: The fourth-coldest game on the list and coldest regular-season contest in Gillette Stadium history, the temperature at kickoff was 13 degrees — with the wind chill, it was -2. The temps might have been close to zero, but the players and coaches didn’t seem to mind. From Belichick walking the field before the game in shorts and short sleeves to New York defensive back Jamal Adams working out shirtless on the field before the game, the conditions didn’t appear to have the same impact on the game as some of the others on this list. New England ended up crushing the Jets, 26-6, in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Jan. 20, 2019
AFC championship game at Chiefs: The ninth-coldest game on the all-time list, it was 19 degrees at kickoff. (The wind chill brought it down to 5 degrees.) A classic game that ended up going into overtime, New England captured a dramatic 37-31 victory against Kansas City to advance to the Super Bowl. For what it’s worth, the personnel is different, but this game should serve as an excellent template for the Patriots’ against the Bills Saturday night. That night against the Chiefs, New England ran the ball effectively, controlled the clock, and imposed its will on Kansas City. Those are points of emphasis every week, but given the matchup and personnel, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Patriots try the same approach against Buffalo.
Christopher Price can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at cpriceglobe.