“We’re playing the Chargers,” said Bill Belichick. “We’re not playing the weather.”
The comment came during Friday’s press conference prior to Sunday’s AFC Divisional Round playoff game against Los Angeles at Gillette Stadium. It was in many respects a vintage Belichick response.
The New England coach conceded nothing regarding his team’s supposed advantage in cold games, particularly against an opponent that plays in a warmer climate. And based on historical results, if someone is worried about the weather, it won’t be the home team.
Factually speaking, the Patriots have lived up to the reputation over the years of dominating in cold weather (and snow). According to Pro Football Reference, the New England hasn’t lost at home in a game where the temperature at kickoff was 32 degrees or lower since 2011. In that time, the Patriots are 13-0.
Snow isn’t in the forecast (anymore) for Sunday, but that isn’t always a guarantee. After all, no snow was predicted for the Patriots’ Divisional Round playoff game against the Colts in early 2005, but ended up happening anyway.
“It’s pretty hard to forecast the weather at this time of year,” Belichick said on Tuesday, factoring in his past experience. “I wouldn’t worry too much about it until it gets pretty close to game time.”
And in home games when it snows through the entirety of Patriots history, the team is undefeated (11-0).
That said, some of the cold weather games have been decided by fine margins. Additionally, each of the Patriots’ last two losses at home in cold weather came in the playoffs (against the Jets in 2011, and the Ravens in 2010).
Troy Brown, recalling the final game ever played at Foxboro Stadium (known for the “tuck rule” call that saved Tom Brady from a fumble), explained how he overestimated the importance of the weather.
“I think the one time where it bit us in the butt was when Oakland came here in ,” Brown told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich” on Monday. “We were like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s going to snow, we got this one in the bag!’ Man, they came out throwing that ball around. Jerry Rice and Tim Brown [were] catching stuff.”
Other Patriots players from that season’s Super Bowl-winning team also felt that they didn’t necessarily have an edge during the Divisional Round game against the Raiders.
“I didn’t feel like it was home-field advantage,” Lawyer Milloy told NFL Films in an interview. “I was cold.”
Adam Vinatieri, who drilled multiple field goals in the snowy game to help the Patriots win 16-13, cited other factors.
“I believe a few hours before the game, Belichick and Mr. Kraft decided to remove the tarp off the field a little early,” Vinatieri recalled. “Belichick does whatever he needs to do to try and get an edge in a game, and sometimes that means crappy field conditions for me.”
There are other mitigating factors to consider as well, such as the geographic makeup of the Patriots’ roster. As NESN’s Mike Cole pointed out, rookie running back Sony Michel – a prominent member of New England’s offense – went to college in Georgia and grew up in Florida. He will have no more of an advantage in the cold than Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, who played college football at Wisconsin.
Still, the Patriots aren’t the only team that has history in cold weather games. For the Chargers, the dominant stat has been Philip Rivers’s 1-4 record in playoff games at or below freezing. That, plus the Los Angeles’ exhausting amount of travel over the last three weeks (a time in which the Patriots haven’t had to travel at all) doesn’t bode well for the visitors.