Cold weather plays a factor in football games played in outdoor stadiums; there is no doubt about it. The Minnesota Vikings know this all too well as they prepare for a noon game Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks that currently has a high temperature forecast around 4 degrees.
When games are played in this type of weather you will often see players wearing long sleeves when they normally prefer to wear short sleeves, but that can cause players to put the ball on the ground more often because fabric sleeves do not grip the ball as well as skin does.
The cold weather also will make the ball harder, which makes it more difficult to grab, and once again can lead to more fumbles.
“With the cold weather the ball definitely feels kind of like a brick,” wide receiver Jarius Wright said, “so we have to make sure we not only catch the ball but it’s also going to be so cold to the point where you might have to wear sleeves. So you just have to make sure you’re securing the ball really, really well.”
The Vikings got a little bit of a taste of what Sunday’s game will be like last weekend when they traveled to Green Bay to play the Packers in their outdoor stadium. The temperature was 24 degrees with the wind chill at 13, which is not nearly as cold as Sunday is expected to be, but still below freezing.
Even at those temperatures you could see the effect of the cold on the players’ ball security, as there were four fumbles during the course of the game, three of which were put on the ground by the Vikings.
Head coach Mike Zimmer clearly does not want a fumble to be the reason his team losses their first home playoff game since 2009, so he has been stressing ball security all week at practice.
“Any time you get in the elements (ball security) is going to be a big factor,” he said. “It’s not going to be wet, but it’s going to be cold and that is different. So ball security will be huge in this ball game. For both sides.”
Both sides will have to be playing in the cold weather. The Vikings defense knows this and that is why they are going to be keying on trying to create turnovers when the Seahawks run the ball.
“It is more opportunities for us to create more turnovers,” defensive end Everson Griffen said about playing in the cold. “Get after the running back and try to get some strips. Coach Zimmer just said a stat that when it’s below 10 it’s like 5.3 turnovers per game combined with each team. So that’s a big factor in the game and the best thing for us to do is secure the ball and us on defense try to get the ball out.”
Both of these two teams have great defenses with young, athletic quarterbacks leading their offenses. There are a lot of similarities between the two sides, so ball security could turn out to be the deciding factor in Sunday’s game.
Like any other game, the team that turns the ball over the least is most likely to win. But in the cold weather, hanging onto the ball is often easier said than done.