Picture this: it’s the middle of December, just days before Christmas. You’re sitting in the stands at a football stadium hoping to see the Patriots play the Dolphins, but the increasingly foul weather keeps interrupting playing time. As the snow comes down faster and faster, you begin to realize that this will be no ordinary game…
As the snow comes down faster and faster, you begin to realize that this will be no ordinary game.
Man Versus Wild
That was the reality for fans and players at Shaefer Stadium on December 12, 1982. Just a handful of days before Christmas, the harsh Massachusetts winter was wreaking absolute havoc on the NFL game in session. The snowstorm was unusually powerful even for the region, to an extent that seemed nearly deliberate. It was as though Mother Nature had consciously made it her mission to do whatever was necessary to obstruct the players from doing their jobs.
Series Of Unfortunate Events
Public Domain Pictures
It wasn’t just the conditions on game day that led to the colossal disaster on the field. A series of factors lined up just enough to create the perfect storm.
It all began the night before the game when a massive downpour drenched every inch of the stadium in rain. The water then froze overnight, leaving the field solid as a brick and particularly conducive to accumulating precipitation.
The already unideal playing surface was then made many times worse, thanks to a poorly-timed snowstorm the day of the event. As fans filed into the stadium, the snow fell and fell and fell, sticking to the icy ground and refusing to budge.
Proceed With Caution
Despite the unpleasant weather conditions, both teams opted to pursue their original plan and attempt to play the game.
Naturally, this did not come without significant difficulty. The field was wrought with chaos from the moment the first play began. Not only did the players face significant challenges playing through the harsh conditions, but the stadium crew members could hardly keep up with the snowstorm. Officials even had to implement on-the-fly rule changes to allow for extra, extended timeouts devoted exclusively to snow plowing.
A Fruitless Endeavor
Winning a professional football game? That’s challenging. Winning a professional football game in a massive blizzard? That seems nearly impossible.
Up until the very last quarter, the players themselves may have agreed with that statement. The frequent time out interruptions and brutal physical impacts of the weather led both teams to remain scoreless for the majority of the game. It was like nothing anyone had ever seen before. Amazingly, the players (and fans) still managed to slough through the experience until late in the fourth quarter, when a belated change finally came…
The Final Countdown
With less than five minutes left in the entire game, both teams had failed to score even a single point. With the notion of a miserable overtime in the driving blizzard looming overhead, every player on the field became desperate to make something happen. Both sides fought for leverage with all their might in hopes of ending the game.
Despite all they had already endured, the Patriots managed to gain just enough ground to enter field goal territory. It was then that Coach Ron Meyer famously ordered the snow plow operator to clear a spot for his kicker, John Smith.
Much to the fury of the other team, Smith then kicked a successful field goal. He earned the Patriots a three-point victory in what became one of the most legendary games ever.