7 "Chilly" Facts About the Freezer Bowl

January 10, 2019 3 Comments


When pro football fans talk about epic cold weather games, two particular contests always come up. One is the Ice Bowl played on December 31, 1967. It was a playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and the host Green Bay Packers to determine who would represent the National Football League (NFL) in Super Bowl II.

The other game, of course, is the Freezer Bowl, played on January 10, 1982 at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium. The winner of that game would also earned a trip to the Big Game, in this case Super Bowl XVI.

The Ice Bowl, won by the Packers is the coldest game in NFL history in terms of air temperature which was -13F at kickoff, with a windchill of -48F. The Freezer Bowl, won by the Bengals, is the coldest in terms of windchill which reached -59F with an air temperature of -9F. While that distinction is known by many fans, there are some fun facts that aren’t widely known about the Freezer Bowl.

It was only the second play-off win for the Bengals

A week earlier, the Bengals notched their first postseason win in the first playoff game they ever hosted. The Bengals beat the Buffalo Bills in that game 28 to 21. The Bengals made playoff appearances in 1970, 1973, and 1975, but lost all three games on the road.

It was a huge temperature swing for the Chargers

The day before the Buffalo/Cincinnati game, the Miami Dolphins hosted the San Diego Chargers in the Orange Bowl. The game became known as the Epic in Miami, with the Chargers escaping South Florida with 3-point overtime win as kicker Rolf Benirschke split the uprights from 29 yards out.

The temperature at kickoff was 76F. That means the Chargers, in one week, experienced a game time temperature swing of 67 degrees. Factoring the windchill, it was a difference of 117 degrees. 

Attendance was off

Through sold out, only 46,302 brave fans came through the turnstiles in 59,000-seat Riverfront Stadium. Oddly, only 55,000 attended the previous week’s game against the Bills. The kickoff temperature for that game was 45F.

The Chargers wanted to postpone the game

A few hours before the game, Chargers owner Gene Klein met with then Bengals assistant GM Mike Brown (current owner). Klein insisted that both place a call to NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and have the game postponed. Brown declined, or more accurately, "de-Klein-ed."

Bengals coach Forrest Gregg participated in the Ice Bowl and the Freezer Bowl

In 1967, Forrest Gregg was a right tackle for the Green Bay Packers and played in the famous Ice Bowl game against the Dallas Cowboys. He was also named to the Pro Bowl that year. In 1980, he became head coach of the Bengals and was their coach for the Freezer Bowl.

The Chargers’ revenge

On January 5, 2014, the Chargers finally got their revenge, knocking the Bengals out of the playoffs in a wildcard game played at Paul Brown Stadium. The temperature for that game was a balmy 42F at kickoff.

Charger James Brooks later became a Bengal

The Chargers kick returner was James Brooks. He fumbled a return that the Bengals recovered on the San Diego 12 yard line. Two plays later, the Bengals scored as QB Ken Anderson connected with tight end M.L. Harris from 8 yards out. In 1984, Brooks became a Bengal and was on the team that went to Super Bowl XXIII. That year, 1988, Brooks ran for eight TDs, caught six and ran for 931 yards, along with 287 receiving yards.

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