The NFL's Coldest Game In History Had Teams Playing In Minus 59 Degree Weather

In the United States, the beginning of football season kicks off cooler temperatures, and by the time playoff games begin, it can be downright cold at some fields. But only a couple of games have come close to the frigid temperatures experienced at the AFC Championship Game at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium on January 10, 1981. History reports that during kickoff, the temperature was -9 degrees. Wind gusts were up to 40 miles per hour, and the wind chill was a biting -59 degrees. It's no surprise that game earned the nickname "Freezer Bowl."

The Cincinnati Bengals hosted the San Diego Chargers, and while the skies were sunny, the temperatures added an extra layer of difficulty for the players. In fact, the process of staying warm is described as a "fight over blood supply" as the body rushes blood to the muscles being used while it also moves blood away from the skin to keep the body's core temperature warm. In addition, muscles aren't as efficient as they are in normal temperatures (via AccuWeather), which can be troubling if you intend on playing football.

The Chargers were at a disadvantage

The Bengals had the home field advantage in more ways than one. Ironically, one of the most significant benefits was the lower temperatures, which made it physically tougher for the Chargers. For starters, they were from the West Coast, which meant that they were accustomed to playing in warmer weather. Moreover, one week prior to the playoff game, they played in Miami, where the temperature was 84 degrees. When they arrived at Riverfront, they were experiencing a 140-degree temperature difference. That meant they resorted to several unique ways to keep warm, including using pantyhose and cling wrap in between sock layers for insulation (via History).

But just because the Bengals were used to playing in colder temperatures did not mean that they were ready for the likes of the Freezer Bowl. Bengals Offensive Guard Dave Lapham said in an interview with the New York Daily News that it was a "Darwinism game," meaning you "went out there and survived that sucker."

It was so cold...

The Freezer Bowl was so cold that Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts got frostbite. He told the San Diego Union-Tribune that it was permanent. "Fingers and toes. It's more of a cold sensation. You just can't get warm," he said. Lapham said the experience changed his body's thermostat. "Cold weather has a bigger effect on me now than it did before that game," he said (via New York Daily News).

It was so cold that some of the cameras NBC used to film the game froze, and announcer Dick Enberg's coffee froze before he could finish it. Pete Shaw, safety for the Chargers, said moving was the only way to stay warm on the football field. "I got so cold that I had to move around. In the huddle I was like, 'Just call the defense.' I didn't want to stand still," he said, according to the New York Daily News. Other casualties included one of the referees' shirt catching fire after he stood too close to a heater, per History. It may have been cold, but that didn't prevent the Bengals from pulling off a solid win.