FOXBORO – New England’s been thrown in the ice tub.
After an autumn of mostly mild temperatures, a one-day cold snap has blown into Boston and it’s absolutely bitter.
The high Sunday is going to be 30 according to the internet (!). The low will be 18. Winds during the day will gust up to 40 mph and the winds will still be in the 20 to 30 mph range tonight.
The coldest day this month prior to today was November 13 when high was 38 and low 26. That was the only day on which the high didn’t get out of the 30s.
There are statistics indicating that Peyton Manning, over his career, does not play well in extreme cold. He’s 2-5 in his career when the temperature at kickoff is below 30 degrees.
But the details behind those results make the record less damning. The Broncos playoff loss to Baltimore last year was a sub-30 game but Manning went 28 for 43 with three touchdowns and two picks. His dunderheaded interception thrown in overtime is the kind of play he can make in Denver or Miami (ask Tracy Porter).
The Colts lost 30-7 to Buffalo in January, 2010 but that was the final game of the regular season, Manning had only a cameo on the 11-degree day and went 14 for 18 before departing. The last sub-30 degree game prior to that came in the 2004 playoffs when the Colts lost to the Patriots 20-3 in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
That last loss for Manning – who was the MVP and set the NFL record for passing touchdowns – continued his early-career habit of playing horrifically in the playoffs. In the 2002, 2003 and 2004 postseasons, Manning threw for one touchdown and seven picks in games the Colts were eliminated.
But we’re almost talking ancient history now, a decade removed and Manning’s tendency to pee down his leg at the start of high-stakes games has been curbed so that now it only happens at the very end.
The Patriots’ record in inclement conditions is daunting. They are 32-4 when the temperature is under 40. Of course, the team’s been the best in football since 2001 and – in a large number of those sub-40 games are played at Foxboro. In short, the Patriots are good wherever they are.
How the teams approach the conditions is a big determinant in how they perform in them. Bill Belichick has long espoused complete and utter dismissal of external factors like the weather as being distractions.
Before the Patriots went to Miami in 2003, Belichick threatened his team, “I don’t want to hear about the flight. I don’t want to hear about the heat. I don’t want to hear about the (freaking) orange juice…”
In Denver this week, the Broncos were happy to have the chance to practice in cold weather.
“I was glad it was cold just because we know what to expect on Sunday," said offensive coordinator Adam Gase. "For us to have to go through our normal routine, get loosened up, get out there and get the blood flowing in that kind of weather, it’s really helpful for us." Said wide receiver Eric Decker, “You just have to keep your hands warm and there’s a lot of new technology that allows that. I think the biggest thing in the cold weather might be the wind factor. It might be a little bit more windy, the East coast is always windy and that’s something you have to be prepared for and have some mental toughness. Football is football and both teams have to deal with it.”
The wind could wind up being the biggest factor. Wind is expected to be coming from the north, so it could potentially be sweeping through the open end of the stadium. Brady’s velocity in 2013 has not been a factor. Consider last week’s throw to Kenbrell Thompkins in the fourth quarter or the prior week’s touchdown pass to Rob Gronkowski. Manning, however, has lost significant snap on his fastball and – while his touch and timing have become beyond outstanding – he will need to drive the ball more on Sunday night.
A factor to consider in that is the Patriots pass rush. While Manning gets the ball out faster than any quarterback in football, he needs to because he is throwing with less velocity and trying to drop the ball to a spot. For Manning to counteract the wind, he will need to set his feet more strongly, which means he will be holding the ball longer than normal.