Image Credit: © Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
On December 10, 2017, the game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park at, what was then, New Era Field, affectionately became known as "The Snow Bowl."
The NFL played the contest in near-blinding blizzard conditions. Before the game even started, snow-covered the entire field and accumulated a depth of 6 inches before the end of the first quarter. The snow persisted throughout much of the game. As lightning flashed overhead during the third quarter, fans and players alike were treated to the rare phenomenon known as 'thunder snow'. This seldom seen meteorological event did not cause the game to stop, however.
The hardy Bills Mafia didn't seem too affected, as a crowd of 60,222 fans mostly filled the 71,870 capacity stadium. As for the players, many alluded to the fact that this game reminded them of games they played in the snow as kids.
The view from the Press Box in the first quarter:
The Bills opened the game with a ten-play drive that consumed 5:17 of the clock and saw them gain 29 yards. An incomplete pass to Kelvin Benjamin on 4th down gave the ball over to Indianapolis on downs at the Indy 38. The Colts then proceeded to rip off a 12 play drive consisting of 8 runs by Frank Gore and two rambles by Marlon Mack to get them down to the Bills 14-yard line. After the Bills' Preston Brown tackled Gore's 9th rushing attempt of the drive for a yard loss, Adam Vinatieri pushed a 33-yard attempt wide right to keep the game scoreless.
The two teams then traded possessions, culminating in three punts by the Colts, two punts, and another turnover on downs by the Bills before any points were put on the board. Much to the enjoyment of the snow-covered Mafia, the Bills proceeded to engineer a seven-play scoring drive in a 2-minute drill fashion. With :27 left in the second quarter, Nathan Peterman (subbing for an injured Tyrod Taylor) threw an eight-yard pass to Benjamin, who high pointed the ball over the Colts' Chris Melton along the right side of the endzone to take a 7 point lead into the locker room at the end of the first half. For Benjamin, whom the Bills acquired in a Halloween day trade with the Carolina Panthers, this was his first touchdown grab in a Bills uniform. Had KB played more as he did on this wintery wonderland day for the Bills than the rest of his stay with Buffalo, he might have been more of a treat than the trick he turned out to be.
After warming up in the bowels of New Era Field, the teams played a primarily uninspiring third quarter. With the snow still falling and 11:03 left on the clock in the fourth quarter, the Colts took possession at their own 23yd line. They put together a 19 play, 77-yard touchdown drive that took 9:53 off the clock. With 1:21 left on the game clock, from three yards out, Jacoby Brissett rolling out to his right on a read-option, lofts a ball over a retreating Micah Hyde to an uncovered Jack Doyle for the 6 point TD.
Chuck Pagano lined up his team to go for the two-point conversion, to take the lead, and potentially win the game. There appeared to be no consideration of merely tying the game at this point. After seeing how the Colts lined up, Sean McDermott called a time-out to reset his defense. The snap of the ball has the Colts run a play option. Brissett takes the ball, fakes a handoff to Mack, and floats the ball out to a wide-open Doyle in the left flat for a 2 point conversion and the lead.
Well after the successful 2-point attempt, a flag was thrown. There was a reason why Doyle was so wide open. Kamar Aiken threw a pick a couple of yards downfield to spring him. While the call was somewhat questionable, the interference penalty took the 2 points off the board and backed the Colts up to the 25. They only had one option at this point, which was to kick the extra point to tie the game.
With the amount of snow on the field, the kick heading into the open-end of the stadium, and the wind swirling, this was no sure thing. The Colts had to take their final time out to be sure they cleared enough of the piled snow away from the place where the ball was to be set for the attempt. Somehow, with the aid of the wind, the 43-yard attempt curled back into the uprights, and the extra point was good to tie the game at seven apiece.
With Joe Webb assuming QB duties because of Peterman being in concussion protocols, the Bills would try to get into field goal position to win the game in regulation. With 1:08 on the clock and one time out left, the Bills faced an uphill climb. Webb's first attempt to Benjamin along the right sideline, though caught, was ruled out of bounds. Webb's subsequent effort to Charles Clay, coming across the middle, was picked off by Matthias Farley and returned 9 yards to the Bills 28-yard line.
After a 3 yard Frank Gore run and a spike by Brissett to stop the clock, could Vinatieri do it again and win the game for the Colts? With Buffalo declining to use their last time out to try and ice Vinatieri, the Colts snapped the ball for a 43-yard attempt. The same wind that helped curl the previous extra-point attempt back into the uprights blew this FG attempt wide left.
The Bills won the toss, and after both teams exchanged possessions, the Bills got the ball back with 2:25 remaining on the clock. They then ran off a 65-yard scoring march highlighted by LeSean McCoy's 21-yard scamper into the endzone to win the game for Buffalo.
With the blustery conditions being what they were, one might suspect that the total yards gained by the two teams would have been a more paltry number than the 546 total that day. Both turnovers committed were by the Bills. Fortunately, neither one cost them the game.
One player who didn't seem to have much trouble with the elements was LeSean McCoy. He gained 156 yards on the day, which put him over 1,000 yards on the season.
Though the game sure looked like everyone was having fun, you can bet they were glad when it was over.
In the resulting aftermath of this game, The NFL adopted a new 'clause' with regard to kicking during snow games of this nature. No longer are team personnel allowed to help 'clear snow' from the kicking area. This is to be limited to players on the field, only. It is to be a penalty to the offending team but the officials are encouraged to prohibit anyone from coming onto the field and helping with the task.
You can watch the entire Snow Bowl game here:
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