ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Crafting game plans is a laborious enough job for NFL offensive and defensive coordinators, but having to produce two, or even three, really ratchets up the workload.
Last week, because of the uncertainty of when the forecasted lake effect snowstorm would settle over Highmark Stadium, Buffalo Bills offensive play-caller Ken Dorsey had to plan for all contingencies when putting together the script for Josh Allen against the Dolphins.
And now he’s going to have to do the same thing again this week when the Bills travel to Chicago on Saturday for a game that will also be played in potentially awful conditions, or not.
“It’ll be kind of similar this week,” Dorsey said Tuesday regarding the task of putting together multiple plans to make sure he can adjust his calls based on whatever weather the Bills and Bears will be playing in.
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Chicago weather forecast for weekend, Bears vs Bills game
The forecast is calling for blizzard-like conditions with heavy snow and high winds on Friday in Chicago as a massive storm moves through the midwest. The snow is expected to be gone by the 1 p.m. Saturday kickoff, but maybe it won’t. As we all know, it’s pretty tough to predict these things
“For last week, if there was snow accumulating on the ground, certain cuts with the receivers and tight ends we didn’t want to make in fear of going down and throwing the ball to a DB or something like that,” Dorsey said. “So, we took our game plan that we had and then we just cut out certain things and had those (new plays) in case we needed it for footing reasons more so than anything.
As it turned out, the snow didn’t start falling until about 12 minutes remained in the fourth quarter, and by the end of the game, the field was only lightly covered.
“We just used our base game plan, obviously, because the footing was good,” he said. “Even at the end there when the snow was accumulating, it wasn’t enough to affect the footing. We always try and make sure we’ve got those contingency plans.
Saturday at Soldier Field, the wind will likely be the element Dorsey has to be most concerned about.
“If it’s a high wind game, we’ll do the same thing and have a separate game plan if the wind is affecting us so we can go to those things that we feel better about in the wind,” he said.
This current Bills team has dealt with some terrible weather, particularly in the last two years. Unbearable heat, hurricane-like wind, and heavy rain, for instance. But in terms of brutal cold, the worst was last January in the wild-card victory over the Patriots when the game-time temperature that night was seven degrees with a wind-chill of minus-9.
Undaunted, the Bills scored touchdowns on all seven of their possessions, not including kneel-downs at the end of each half, in a 47-17 blowout.
Coldest games in Buffalo Bills history
Saturday might produce a lower windchill, and it could threaten the three coldest games in Bills history.
Jan. 15, 1994: Bills vs. Raider
You’ve heard the famous Marv Levy line, “When it’s too tough for them, it’s just right for us.” This was the day he delivered it.
The temperature at game time was zero and the wind chill was minus-32. In terms of the wind chill number, it was the third-coldest in NFL history behind only the 1981 AFC Championship Game – Chargers at Bengals, minus-59 degrees; and the 1967 NFL Championship – Cowboys at Packers, minus-48. In terms of temperature, it’s the fifth-coldest game.
Ever the tough guy, Bills quarterback Jim Kelly said after the 29-23 victory, “It wasn’t that bad, but in the second half, my hands were getting real cold.”
One sign inside the stadium read, “Just freeze, baby,” a take on Raiders’ owner Al Davis famous saying, “Just win, baby.”
Dec. 26, 1993: Bills vs. Jets
That game against the Raiders surpassed the record that had been set less than three weeks earlier when the Bills won their fifth AFC East division title with a 16-14 victory over the Jets in a game that started at nine degrees with a wind chill of minus-28.
For that one, a Christmas Eve snowstorm dumped more than 20 inches of snow in Orchard Park and the team had to summon the public’s help – on a holiday – to shovel out the stadium.
The stadium looked like an igloo, and it surely felt like one, but Steve Christie warmed everyone when he made a 40-yard field goal with 3:48 left to play to put the Bills ahead, and then Cary Blanchard of the Jets missed what would have been a game-winning 42-yarder with 53 seconds to go.
“My toes were so numb, I couldn’t feel the ball,” Christie said. “You know where the ball is, you hope you know where your foot is, and hopefully the two will meet.”
Dec. 11, 1988: Bills vs. Raiders
Pity the poor Raiders who were based in Los Angeles at the time and were the opponent in two of these games.
They lost this one 37-21 as the temperature was 11 degrees with a minus-14 wind chill. Buffalo turned to its potent running game and Thurman Thomas and Robb Riddick combined for 150 of Buffalo’s 255 rushing yards and Kelly threw for just 128.
The Los Angeles Times reported that for the trip, the Raiders packed 1,700 pounds worth of gloves, boots, parkas, scarfs, thermal underwear, and ski caps. It didn’t help. As you recall, there was a story last week that the Dolphins packed around 1,400 pounds of cold-weather gear.
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