Brrrrrrowns Beat Bills In Blizzard-Like Conditions

Monday, December 17th 2007, 8:19 am
By: News On 6

CLEVELAND (AP) _ Even Santa Claus shivered.

Blizzard-like conditions blanketed the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills during their crucial game on Sunday as a severe winter storm pounded the Lake Erie shoreline with heavy snow and swirling winds.

The temperature was 30 degrees at kickoff, and with wind gusts hitting 40 mph, Browns Stadium was transformed into a super-sized snow globe. As the Browns huddled for warmth near space heaters by their bench, jolly ol' St. Nick braved the elements a few feet away.

``It looked like something I saw on the Discovery Channel, like something about the North Pole,'' said Bills rookie running back Marshawn Lynch.

Unable to get any traction, players slipped and slid all over the field and officials had difficulty spotting the ball in the blustery conditions. Punts and passes were adventures as anything not grounded was quickly blown off-target.

``It wasn't the coldest conditions I've ever played in,'' said Browns kicker Phil Dawson, who managed to push two field goals through. ``But it was the toughest.''

Early on, stadium groundskeepers did their best to keep the yard lines, sidelines and hashmarks visible with backpack blowers, but as soon as they completed one attempt, they had to start another to keep up with the white stuff.

Windows in the press box fogged up, making it almost impossible to see the field.

Players weren't the only ones challenged by the tough conditions.

From the perspective of the CBS crew broadcasting the game, the swirling snow made for great TV.

``It was an unbelievable scene,'' producer Victor Frank said in a phone interview afterward. ``It was in a big game. It had all the ingredients.''

Frank, who has produced NFL games for 15 years, called it one of the best scenes he's witnessed in his career.

The greatest challenge for CBS was figuring out where the ball was. During the game, the network superimposed a graphic over certain views of the field that showed where the yard lines were to aid viewers.

The higher the camera, the more likely its shot would be clouded by snow. CBS tried to show extra replays, especially those from low camera angles, Frank said.

The Browns scored on their second possession, a 35-yard field goal by Dawson that was set up by a lucky bounce. Cleveland wide receiver Braylon Edwards had a pass bounce off his chest to teammate Joe Jurevicius for a 25-yard gain.

After being tackled, Jurevicius, who grew up in Cleveland playing in backyard games in similarly nasty weather, jumped up with snow clumped on his facemask and pointed toward Edwards in thanks.

``I remember playing in a high school game like this, but not this bad,'' Jurevicius said.

When Dawson's kick cleared the crossbar, half-frozen Cleveland fans, who came bundled in hunting and ski gear, erupted knowing that scoring would be at a premium.

The Browns took a 5-0 lead early in the second quarter when a snap sailed over Bills punter Brian Moorman's head. He chased it through the snow to the end zone before kicking the ball into the stands rather than risk having the Browns recover.

Following the free kick, officials struggled to locate the 50-yard-line, which was covered in at least 2 inches of snow.

The weather got worse as the game progressed.

``I've never seen anything like it,'' Bills defensive tackle Larry Tripplett said. ``It changed the way we played. There were countless times I couldn't get out of my stance without falling. I didn't know football could be played like this.''

As if it wasn't bad enough that they lost, the Bills were forced to spend Sunday night in Cleveland after their charter flight home was canceled.