The frigid forecast for last week’s game against the Raiders started a scramble to find the coldest Chiefs games at Arrowhead Stadium.
Fans remembered the Dolphins game in 2008, when the temperature at kickoff was 10 degrees. Others recalled the 1996 playoff loss to the Colts that kicked off in 11-degree weather with a wind chill of minus-15 degrees.
There was the 1983 season finale against the Broncos, the final game of John Elway’s rookie season. Kickoff temperature was zero, with a wind chill of minus-30, according to Chiefs records. The announced crowd that braved the elements that day was 11,377.
No weather records were established against the Raiders. The kickoff temperature was 21 degrees, tying for the fifth coldest start since 1994.
But the cold snap hasn’t abated. The forecast for Sunday’s game against the Titans at Arrowhead Stadium calls for possible single-digit temperatures by the noon kickoff.
That was news to Chiefs rookie defensive lineman Chris Jones, who grew up and played college football in Mississippi.
“I might be out there playing in pajamas then,” Jones said. “There’s nothing much you can do except put heat packs on your body.”
Jones said the Raiders game was a frosty as any he’s played in.
“My hands froze together, my toes didn’t want to move, my pinky toe I forgot it existed,” Jones said.
But the Chiefs prevailed over Oakland 21-13. Of those six coldest regular-season games since 1994, the Chiefs won five. And they won that 1983 game over the Broncos.
At least the field should be in good shape. For this season, the Chiefs installed heated pipes underneath the playing surface to keep the soil soft.
The numbing cold will be a new experience for several players, especially those from the South, like Jones, or Hawaii, like Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota.
“This will be the coldest game for sure,” said Mariota, a native of Honolulu.
Mariota played in college at Oregon and participated in some cold weather games there. This week at practice, he tried using a glove but said it didn’t feel comfortable. He will use hand-warmers.
“You want to stay warm throughout, even when you’re not on the field in terms of keeping your arm and body warm,” Mariota said. “And with your grip, you want to make sure everything is comfortable when you’re out there.”
Against the Raiders, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith wore a glove on his left hand and had one of his best halves of football this season, completing 11 off 16 for 202 yards and a touchdown before halftime.
One game in cold conditions should help this time, Smith said.
“Last week was pretty close to what it will be like this week,” Smith said. “We’ve been outside in the elements a lot and it’s been a good practice for us. That’s one of the benefits of being here.”
Inclement weather can push the Chiefs to their indoor facility, but not this week. They worked outside to grow accustom to functioning the in conditions.
“You have to get used to it,” Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub said. “You have to get a feel for it. The ball gets a little slicker.”
Toub had plenty of experience dealing with intense cold as the Bears special teams coordinator from 2004-12, and Chicago is bracing for one the coldest game days ever on Sunday, when the forecast there calls for a high of 3 degrees. The Bears play host to the Packers at noon.
“I tell our guys, whoever handles the weather best is going to win the game,” Toub said. “It held true in Chicago. It holds true here.”