Thursday, January 2, 2014
Can snow be added advantage for Bengals?
By Coley Harvey
CINCINNATI -- About 1 p.m. ET on Thursday, just as the Cincinnati Bengals were escaping the windy, snowy conditions that blanketed the day's practice inside Paul Brown Stadium, temperature gauges across the city began dipping sharply into the low 20s.
About the same time, some 2,100 miles away, San Diego was having a typically San Diego day. Sunny skies and 75-degree temperatures covered the area under the golden Southern California sun.
The San Diego Chargers might want to bottle up that warmth, because when they travel to the Ohio Valley for an AFC playoff game against the Bengals on Sunday, they won't be feeling it. Instead, they'll be exposed to the same conditions the Bengals saw Thursday.
Dealing with winter weather is a fact of life at Paul Brown Stadium, something the Bengals hope plays to their advantage on Sunday.
The Bengals believe their experience practicing and playing in it is a key advantage.
"Oh yes, it's a big difference," Bengals defensive end Wallace Gilberry said when asked about the impact weather can have on a team. "Cold-weather teams play well in cold weather. You get a team like Miami or San Diego -- from a place where the weather's always nice -- in this 20-degree weather, it's a big difference on your body."
According to the National Weather Service, snow and freezing rain are in the forecast for Cincinnati on Sunday, as are steadily falling temperatures that will get as low as 7 degrees by that night. It will be the third time this season the Bengals have played a game that saw temperatures remain below 40. They are 1-1 in those games.
On Dec. 8, the Bengals battled through freezing rain and a pregame delay brought on by a snow shower to beat the Colts, 42-28. A week later, they played in 15-degree temperatures in a 30-20 loss at Pittsburgh.
In the days leading up to Cincinnati's game against Indianapolis, coach Marvin Lewis coined a new term, "Bengal weather," to describe the bitterly cold conditions his team was about to play in that weekend. It was his way of acknowledging the harsh weather that can become an added element in games that take place at AFC North stadiums. Much like it is in Cincinnati, the weather in Cleveland, Baltimore and Pittsburgh can be particularly unpleasant in winter for teams that don't practice in it as often as teams in this division do.
"That's part of us. That's part of our toughness," Lewis said then about playing in cold weather. "It's just the way we're put together."
Before Bengals fans start prematurely celebrating a win this Sunday, though, be reminded of this simple fact: even though the Chargers don't practice in weather like what they'll see this weekend, they've still played in it before, and played well.
"It can be an advantage [for us] but at the same time, they went up to Denver," Bengals receiver Marvin Jones said.
San Diego traveled to Denver and knocked off the Broncos on a Thursday night last month in 35-degree temperatures. The week before the Bengals beat them in San Diego on Dec. 1, the Chargers also braved temperatures of 25 degrees and below to claim an overtime road win against Kansas City. Quarterback Philip Rivers is 5-3 in his career in games in which it was 35 degrees or lower at kickoff.
So, maybe it's not much of an advantage after all.
Either way, the Bengals still plan on treating their "Bengal weather" as if it is a sort of 13th man.
"We're used to it," Gilberry said. "There is no bubble [indoor practice facility]. When it rains, sleets or snows, we're working. We love it because come game day, it's normal to us. It's not like we have to prepare for it. It's normal."
At times, the Bengals do use a bubble. When Lewis sees fit, the team is bused some two miles north of downtown to the University of Cincinnati, where it practices inside the school's indoor bubble. The Bengals have used the facility twice this season. With temperatures expected to touch single-digits Friday morning, there is a chance they end up there later in the day in order to keep players from getting sick.
Whether they practice in it or not Friday, the Bengals are embracing playing in the harrowing conditions this weekend.