ORCHARD PARK – Saturday night, the temperature is expected to be in the single digits and the wind chill in the minus 10-15 range at kickoff time of the AFC wild-card game against the New England Patriots.
It will end up being one of the coldest games ever played in Buffalo, one of the coldest in NFL history.
Where will it end up ranking on the Bills’ all-time list? It’s probably going to be top five.
Here’s a look back at the three coldest Bills’ home games on record.
Jan. 15, 1994: Bills vs. Raiders
You’ve heard the famous Marv Levy line, “When it’s too tough for them, it’s just right for us.” This was the day he delivered it.
The temperature at game time was zero and the wind chill was minus-32. In terms of the wind chill number, it was the third-coldest in NFL history behind only the 1981 AFC Championship Game – Chargers at Bengals, minus-59 degrees; and the 1967 NFL Championship – Cowboys at Packers, minus-48. In terms of temperature, it’s the fifth-coldest game.
Ever the tough guy, Bills quarterback Jim Kelly said, “It wasn’t that bad, but in the second half, my hands were getting real cold.”
One sign inside the stadium read, “Just freeze, baby,” a take on Raiders’ owner Al Davis famous saying, “Just win, baby.”
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To their credit, the guys from Los Angeles gave the Bills a heck of a fight, but in the end, Buffalo won 29-23. “I never really let cold weather affect me,” Thurman Thomas said once when recalling that day. “But I remember it being very, very cold.”
“You figure that maybe on a day like today that 23 points would be enough to win,” said Raiders QB Jeff Hostetler, the same man who had beaten the Bills in Super Bowl 25 playing for the Giants. “We shot ourselves in the foot on offense and we killed ourselves by not making some plays and having too many penalties.”
Dec. 26, 1993: Bills vs. Jets
That game against the Raiders surpassed the record that had been set less than three weeks earlier when the Bills won their fifth AFC East division title with a 16-14 victory over the Jets in a game that started at 9 degrees with a wind chill of minus-28.
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 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.”
The stadium looked like an igloo, and it surely felt like one, but Steve Christie warmed everyone when he made a 40-yard field goal with 3:48 left to play to put the Bills, and then Cary Blanchard of the Jets missed what would have been a game-winning 42-yarder with 53 seconds to go.
“My toes were so numb, I couldn’t feel the ball,” Christie said. “You know where the ball is, you hope you know where your foot is, and hopefully the two will meet. I knew it was going to be a tough day and unfortunately for Blanchard, it was harder for him than it was for me. But that’s our advantage playing at Rich, we’re used to the frozen turf.”
Dec. 11, 1988: Bills vs. Raiders
Pity the poor Raiders who were based in Los Angeles from 1982 through 1994 and happened to be the opponent for two of the three coldest Bills games. You know Davis was none too happy about it.
The Bills had already clinched their first AFC East division title since 1980 and now were in position to clinch homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with this 37-21 victory over the frostbitten Raiders. Alas, they lost the season finale at Indianapolis which gave Cincinnati homefield, and the Bills ultimately went to Riverfront Stadium for the AFC title game and lost 21-10.
In this Raiders game, the temperature was 11 degrees with a minus-14 wind chill, so the Bills turned to their potent running game and Thomas and Robb Riddick combined for 150 of Buffalo’s 255 rushing yards and Kelly threw for just 128.
Despite the cold, a crowd of 77,348 showed up and that allowed the Bills to set what was then the NFL’s all-time single-season attendance record, pushing the gate to 622,793 for the eight home games.
The Los Angeles Times reported that for the trip, the Raiders packed 1,700 pounds worth of gloves, boots, parkas, scarfs, thermal underwear, and ski caps. It didn’t help.
Raiders safety Vann McElroy said of the conditions, “We don’t have to live in this stuff. I mean, this is kind of like a thing where you do it one day and you get out. It was kind of exciting.”