What’s fact and what’s fiction about playing football in subzero weather? We asked some current and former Seahawks for answers before Sunday’s icy road game against the Minnesota Vikings.
It’s easy to downplay the cold when you’re in a 68-degree locker room or cozy auditorium. It’s kind of like imagining hunger pangs between plates No. 2 and 3 at the buffet.
The thought of anguish is easier than the experience. Just ask lifelong marathoners who, on mile 24, always swear it will be the last one they ever run.
That’s why it’s hard to believe a Seahawk who says the subzero temperature in Minneapolis won’t be a factor Sunday — even if they believe it themselves. But the bigger mystery is: Will it be a disadvantage?
How Mother Nature will affect Seattle’s odds of beating the Vikings has been a talker since the initial forecast came out. It has been the predominant question in news conferences and newsroom meetings, too.
So let’s break this down fact-or-fiction style to find out. We have to know whether the weather really matters.
Fact or fiction: The Vikings have the inherent advantage because they live the cold every day.
We always heard about how Peyton Manning, who spent most of his career playing home games in a dome, would fold once the thermometer dipped below 40 degrees. But was this really because he was spoiled by warmth, or was it because he was facing top-flight defenses in the playoffs?
I ask because I’m not sure most people realize how ridiculous NFL players’ pain tolerance is. Call them entitled, greedy and out-of-touch if you want, but don’t call them soft.
Richard Sherman was talking Wednesday about how he once finished a game after snapping his wrist in half and breaking his thumb. Linebacker Bobby Wagner has played on a broken foot, and Michael Bennett said his big-toe injury Sunday was a 10 out of 10 on the pain scale.
These guys may hate being out there Sunday, but their bodies have endured harsher torment.
Final verdict: Fiction.
Fact or fiction: The cold will neutralize the passing game, removing the Seahawks’ advantage at quarterback.
Russell Wilson was the top QB in the NFL in the second half of the season, and is gradually ascending to best-in-the-game status. But if you’re giving him football-shaped icicles to throw, can he be all the much better than the next guy?
Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, the Seahawks’ radio color analyst, says yes — that Wilson’s experience at Wisconsin prepared him for this moment (even though the coldest game Wilson played in that season was 43 degrees). But Moon also emphasized that you do have to prepare differently when Mother Nature is feeling particularly frosty.
“The cold can psych you out,” said Moon, who once played a CFL game at minus-22 degrees Celsius. “You start worrying about all the clothes you wear, and suddenly you can’t move comfortably at all.”
Fellow Hall of Famer Steve Largent, a former Seahawks receiver, agreed. He said the heat lamps and evolution of gloves allow today’s receivers to better cope with the cold, but was almost certain the ball will hit the ground more than usual Sunday.
“Expect a low-scoring game,” Largent said.
It’s unlikely that the cold will affect the aerial attack as much as wind or even rain would, but we’re also talking about unprecedented temperatures for most of the Seattle players. It won’t destroy the Seahawks’ passing game, but if we have to pick between one of the two …
Final verdict: Fact.
Fact or fiction: If this comes down to who the better rushing team is, Minnesota will have a leg up.
Vikings running back Adrian Peterson just won the third season rushing title of his career with 1,485 yards. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, meanwhile, will play his first game in nearly two months after undergoing abdominal surgery. And even before Lynch went under the knife, he was gaining just 3.8 yards per carry — tied for the second-lowest average of his career.
Given that information, how can anyone think Seattle can possibly win a rushing slugfest in Minneapolis?
Well, consider that, in addition to winning the scoring defense title, the Seahawks kept Peterson to 18 yards on eight carries when they met last month. Also consider that, even with Lynch out for more than half the year, the Seahawks led the NFL in rushing and got 102 yards out of Christine Michael last week.
Plus, Peterson is a home-run rusher — a mid-level yards-after-contact running back who makes his mark with 50-yard scampers. Lynch, meanwhile, is a 3- to 5-yard bruiser who wears down defenses one Hummer-sized hit at a time.
And when Beast Mode is dishing out that kind of punishment in zero-degree weather?
(Wait for it …) That’s just cold.
Final verdict: Fiction.
Sunday’s playoff game probably won’t be an aesthetic wonder. It could come down to the grit Hawks coach Pete Carroll has preached since the day he arrived in the Northwest.
But the fact is, Seattle is the superior football team in this matchup.
The Seahawks will have to deal with cold weather. The Vikings will have to deal with a storm.