By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 17, 2007
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Dec. 16 -- The numbers will show that several offensive stars for the New York Giants and Washington Redskins were fighting upwind Sunday night at Giants Stadium. There were dropped passes and false steps, passes that soared long and passes that died short, punts that trickled out of bounds and, well, more punts that trickled out of bounds.
But for a true measure of the night's gusty cruelty, cast your eyes on the besieged officiating crew. On a stoppage of play during the third series of Washington's 22-10 victory over New York, the wind took hold of the football and steadily nudged it toward the sideline; one official gamely chased after it. Later, an official fell attempting to maneuver on the field; another lost his hat in the wind.
"Awful," summarized Redskins punter Derrick Frost. "I played a game in Cleveland in 30-mph winds with eight inches of snow; this was just as bad. It was like, just catch the ball and whatever happens, happens. That was the hardest thing, just catching the ball."
Which is not to say that fans, players and, yes, even the bundled-up officials, hadn't properly prepared for a night in which temperatures hovered around freezing, and a persistent wind offered additional cooling. Before the game, vendors bragged about just how hot their hot pretzels actually were, while fans brought out massive comforters and attempted to wipe down wet seats with paper napkins. Much of the sparse crowd arrived in the final minutes before kickoff, but those who made it to their seats in time for the misnamed warmups seemed to revel in the conditions. When flurries momentarily filled the sky, the crowd broke out in cheers.
Of course, by the second quarter, those same fans were being admonished by the public address announcer to stop throwing snowballs. As with so much that happened Sunday night, the home fans responded with boos.
Players from both teams wore gloves, leggings and undershirts. Washington defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery described how players were strategically positioning themselves upwind from the portable heaters on the sidelines. Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham began warming up for his first attempt while wearing a large burgundy-colored parka.
Helped by an unpredictable wind, Suisham slammed that line-drive attempt 49 yards to start the scoring, but the wind was just getting started. It seized a page of a Giants' playbook, sending it on a merry journey to the Redskins' sideline. It seized a first-half punt by Frost, helping it slowly roll more than 15 yards as the Redskins joyfully marched alongside. It seized a Lawrence Tynes 38-yard field goal attempt, which missed wide left. It seized the passes of Washington quarterback Todd Collins and Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who began the game by completing two of 18 attempts.
"It was wild," tight end Chris Cooley said. "I had one early in the game I felt was right in the chest, and all of the sudden it's two feet in front of me."
And in its biggest triumph of the day, the wind seized the Giants' practice bubble, which collapsed under the onslaught early Sunday morning.
"The wind blew one of the sets of revolving doors off its foundation," Jim Minish, executive vice president of facilities for the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, said in a statement. "When it did that, it created the gap underneath, which then let all the air out."
No one was hurt in the bubble's third collapse in four years; it is expected to be operational by the end of the week.
"I think football is supposed to be played in cold weather," said Montgomery, who played for Minnesota in college. "But weather like today, I didn't especially like that kind of weather. It was freezing, man."
"That wind caught me one time and I thought I was in Siberia," linebacker Marcus Washington said.