SAN DIEGO – Mike McCoy is not in the excuse-making business.
So the San Diego Chargers head coach’s answer was no surprise when asked about how the possibility of freezing temperatures and snow will affect his team’s performance on Sunday in Cincinnati.
“We’ll play wherever you want us to go and whatever time you want us to start,” McCoy said. “We’ll kick off and play. There’s a lot of teams wishing they were in right now.”
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the Cincinnati area that will effect downtown Cincinnati, where Paul Brown Stadium is located, from 5 a.m. Sunday through 1 a.m. Monday.
A heavy accumulation of snow between 4 to 8 inches is expected.
Sunday’s predicted high temperature of 36 degrees is expected to fall below freezing around 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. According to the weather service, that’s when the heavy rainfall is expected. Moderate wind is expected in the downtown Cincinnati area.
The Bengals are 8-0 at home this season, winning by an average margin of 17.6 points per contest. Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton believes the cold weather and predicted snow could give his team an advantage.
“We’re obviously used to the cold weather,” Dalton said. “But they’ve gone in and played in some cold games and won them. We hope it’s a little bit to our advantage, but they’ve done some good things in cold weather.”
The conditions will not be as bitterly cold as when the two teams last met in the playoffs. Dubbed the “Freezer Bowl,” the wind chill factor drove temperatures to 59 below zero in a 27-7 loss for the Chargers in the 1982 AFC Championship Game.
Although conditions on Sunday aren’t expected to be nearly as cold, both teams will have to deal with the elements, which will likely include a steady freezing rain or snow.
The Chargers already have two road wins in cold-weather games this season. With kickoff at 24 degrees, San Diego won at Kansas City, 41-38, on Nov. 24.
Three weeks later in Denver, the Chargers defeated the Broncos 27-20. The temperature at kickoff for that game on Dec. 12 was 37 degrees.
San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers is 0-2 in the postseason when the temperature is 32 degrees or lower. Rivers is 1-3 over his 10-year career in cold-weather games. However, Rivers also has 18 touchdown passes in 11 cold-weather games.
Chargers kicker Nick Novak had five tryouts for the Bengals at their stadium during his NFL career, so he’s familiar with the environment he’ll be playing in on Sunday.
“There’s a pretty consistent wind toward their bench,” Novak said. “Every time I’ve been there, it’s been like that. Knowing that, that kind of gives me confidence. When I watch film, I watch what the other kickers do when the flags are blowing to see where they started their ball and where it finished.”
Chargers tight end Antonio Gates attended school in Ohio, including a stint playing basketball at Kent State. Gates said he does not expect weather to factor in the outcome of the game.
“We were able to play in Kansas City, and it was cold,” Antonio Gates said. “Denver was fairly cold, not to say it’s like Cincinnati’s weather. But I grew up and went to school in Ohio. So I know what it’s like to play in cold weather. Most of the guys in here at some point in their collegiate careers, or professional careers, they’ve played in cold weather.
“I think the excitement comes from the fact that you have a chance to play in the postseason. So if you’re worried or concerned about the weather at this point, you’ve definitely defeating the purpose of why you’re taking this trip to Cincinnati.”
“It would be cool, in my opinion,” Novak said, when asked about the possibility of playing in the snow. “We’re football players -- we’re tough. There’s no excuses, you just go out there and make the play.”