The Art of the Snow Game

Addison Drone, Editor

Every kid wants to play a football game in the snow. Combine all the fun of fluttering powder with America’s pastime and a soft landing surface, and the backyard field becomes one out of a dream. However, when players and spectators saw the conditions in Buffalo Sunday, they did not see this fun oasis. They saw a snow whiteout, 15 mph gusts of wind, limited to no visibility, thunder snow (lightning strike during a snowstorm), and the notorious “Bills Mafia” unphased by the conditions. This was no mere backyard game, it was an intense rugged battle in one of the most extreme snow games ever.

What separates a snow game from the rest? Let’s begin with the conditions. First, visibility is practically nonexistent. There was one kickoff where the receiving team did not see the football until it landed, and multiple passing plays looked ridiculous as players could not pick up the football. In addition, the wind made passing and kicking very unfeasible as the ball wobbles in the air and can take very unpredictable paths.

So, what does this mean for coaches trying to plan for a snow game victory? In short, winning the battle of the trenches and handing the ball off to your running back. In this game both Frank Gore (36 carries) and LeSean McCoy (32 carries) had their highest career carries and tallied 130 and 156 yards respectively. In this weather, rushing the ball is the best way to move the ball downfield with the likelihood of a productive pass completion minimal. Trying to throw the ball would have been futile for an extended drive, so it is important to have a workhorse back that is able to fight through the tackles and also a diverse playbook. Some sort of diversity is needed in the playbook because running the same type of play each line allows the opponent’s defense to stack the line and plan for another one of the same. With this being said, a snow game is not the time to get too crafty as adding another element, snow, to a trick play only makes it more difficult to pull off.

In addition, the snow creates another dilemma in kicking. Not only does the wind take the ball in crazy paths but also there is no real place to hold the ball in place. As a result, the Colts needed to take a timeout to sweep away snow when they went to kick a game tying extra point late in the fourth quarter. The sure-footed Adam Vinatieri had missed a 33-yard field goal earlier in the game and had to aim way right for the wind to push the ball through the uprights on that game tying extra-point.

Overall, these snow games lead to a change in play selection leading to heavy reliance on running backs. As far as kicking is concerned, sure-footed kickers can miss routine chips as nothing is a given with the wind gusts. The only thing that is a given is fresh powder and snow angel celebrations.

Photo Credit: USA TODAY