The 2014 Super Bowl is at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. That is just a few days away, and many people seem freaked out by the cold, and the idea that an NFL championship might be decided in something less than absolutely pristine conditions.
I say big deal. Some of the greatest, most memorable games in NFL history have been played in awful conditions. Those conditions, in fact, can often be what makes the game special. The New York Giants have been involved in some of those memorable bad-weather games. Here is a look at three of them.
1934 NFL Championship Game
This, of course, is the infamous 'Sneakers Game,' during which the Giants defeated the Chicago Bears, 30-13. The game isn't famous because of its outcome, it is famous because of the Giants' halftime switch from cleats to sneakers, which helped them overcome a 13-3 deficit to win the second-ever NFL Championship Game.
Freezing rain the night before the the Dec. 9, 1934 game at the Polo Grounds left the field a sheet of ice. Per legend, Giants' captain Ray Flaherty came up with the idea of switching to sneakers. There were no sporting goods stores open as it was a Sunday so the Giants procured nine pairs of sneakers from Manhattan College, where one of their equipment managers worked. Here is a snippet from Lew Freedman's book 'New York Giants: The Complete Illustrated History.'
Half the game had been played before Cohen reappeared bearing nine pairs of sneakers, all he could come up with. Center Mel Hein and guard Potsy Jones , two of the more stationary Giants players, went without rubber soles. The Giants caused a stir when they ran onto the field for the second half, but the payoff was not immediate. An enraged George Halas, coaching the Bears, ordered his players to step on the Giants' feet with their cleats. At the end of the third quarter, the Bears led 13-3. The Giants had made up nothing on the scoreboard, but Flaherty said the comparatively solid footing created "a runner's paradise."
The basketball shoes did not offer as much protection to Ken Strong's toe when he booted, and he broke a nail on one kick. However, in the fourth quarter, when backup quarterback Ed Danowski fired a 28-yard TD pass to Ike Frankian and Strong ran 42 yards for another touchdown the Giants were true believers in their sneakers. "They were slipping and sliding," said Newman of the Bears' attempts to make tackles. "They couldn't touch anybody."
Strong scored on an 11-yard run and Danowski added another touchdown on a 6-yard run. The Giants scored 27 points in the fourth quarter (17 in the game for Strong) and defeated the Bears, 30-13. "They just outsmarted us said [Bronco] Nagurski.
1962 NFL Championship Game
This was the last time an NFL championship was decided in an outdoor, cold-weather venue. The game was played on Dec. 30, 1962 at Yankee Stadium, and the Giants lost to the Green Bay Packers, 16-7. In his book, Freedman wrote that "it was a cold and blustery day. It was inhospitable weather for the passing game and the 64,892 fans."
Freedman described the game this way:
The Frozen Tundra Packers felt at home and did everything but haul ice shanties onto the iced-overYankee Stadium turf. The Giants' defense did rise to the occasion, but too many of [Y.A.] Tittle's passes were windblown, and too many of Green Bay fullback Jim Taylor's runs were sprung by a tough Packer offensive line. Jerry Kramer kicked field goals of 26, 29 and 30 yards, and Taylor scored Green Bay's only touchdown on a 7-yard run in a 16-7 victory.
Back in 2008, George Cronin, one of the first members of our community and a Giants' fan since the 1930s, wrote a series of articles commemorating his memories of Giants' history. Here is what Cronin wrote about that 1962 game:
In ’62, an unexpected, overnight ice storm froze the Yankee Stadium field. The temperature was 13, and swirling 40 MPH winds brought the wind chill factor down to -25. Gusts blew the heavy sideline benches over. Ice formed around players’ eyelids and noses. YA talked of being snake-bitten by the weather two years in a row and of a ball frozen like a block of ice.
Green Bay players have been quoted as swearing that it was colder than the "Ice Bowl" game vs. Dallas in ’67. Hornung called it the hardest game he ever played. Lombardi as fine a football game as he'd ever seen. Blacked out in NYC, I watched this game in a crowded bar on the Jersey shore. The game plan was simple: control the clock by run, run, running Taylor, mostly on sweeps behind a wall of blockers including Hornung and the offensive line.
In the first quarter, Jerry Kramer, who earlier in the year replaced Hornung (leg injury) as placekicker, put Green Bay ahead with a field goal one, of three successes out of five attempts. He wore cleats with a kicking toe, unlike the sneaks worn by all the other players from both teams
In the second quarter, Giants FB Phil King fumbled on the Giants 28 yard line and Ray Nitschke, the Pack’s MLB recovered. On first down, Hornung hit on an option pass to the Giants 7. On the next play Taylor scored on one of the few cutbacks he made that day, which the pursuing defense overran. Later, the Giants tightened things up when CB Erich Barnes blocked a punt and one of his teammates fell on the ball for a TD. GB led at the half, 10-7.
In the second half, the Pack kept battering the Giants defense with Taylor. He needed stitches in his arm during half time, which kept opening every time he scraped them on the frozen ground during the second half. Spitting blood from a bitten tongue, Taylor heaved up from every pile up challenging the Giants to hit him harder.
By the end of the day, The Giants outgained Green Bay in yardage, 291-244, but couldn’t score again and went down to defeat 16-7, the fourth loss in a championship game in five years. Taylor carried the ball 31 times for 85 yards.
[NOTE: For those of you who don't know, George Cronin was the very first commenter here at Big Blue View. He rarely comments here any longer, but long-time community members will be glad to know I heard from him just a couple of weeks ago.]
2007 NFC Championship Game
This is the year Big Blue View was born, and we are sticking to our story that our mere existence is responsible for the Giants winning the Super Bowl that year. Nope, there is no ego here.
Anyway, back to the game. It was held on Jan. 20, 2008 and the temperature was -7 degrees with the wind chill making it feel like -27 degrees. The Giants, as you likely recall, defeated the Packers 23-20 in overtime when Lawrence Tynes kicked a game-winning 47-yard field goal after missing two earlier attempts.
What are your favorite memories of that game?
-- Tom Coughlin's frozen red face?
-- Corey Webster's overtime interception of Brett Favre that set up the game-winning field goal?
-- A completely frozen Tynes kicking the game-winner and not bothering to celebrate, instead sprinting off the field and to the locker room to find warmth?
Here is part of what I wrote immediately after the game:
The third time was the charm for Lawrence Tynes, as the Giants' kicker drilled a 47-yard field goal in overtime Sunday to propel the Giants into their fourth Super Bowl with a 23-20 victory over Green Bay.
Tynes' two earlier misses, including one as regulation time expired, pushed the game into overtime.
How sweet, though, for the Giants that it ended up being an interception of a Brett Favre pass by Corey Webster that set up the game-winning opportunity.
After a week of hearing Favre-love from all corners, including how the best game would be the legendary Favre trying to shoot down the unbeaten Patriots, it was a mistake by the legendary quarterback that ultimately doomed the Packers.
If you are interested in strolling down memory lane a little further, here is the 'Kudos & Wet Willies' from that game.
Are there any games I forgot? Add them into the comments.