It was cold here in New England this past weekend, but Sunday in Kansas City, it could be bone-chillingly cold. Temperatures there are expected to be among the most frigid ever seen at kickoff of an NFL game, as a so-called “arctic blast” wallops the place the Patriots must visit for the AFC Championship Game.
Since beating the L.A. Chargers Sunday here at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots were given Monday off to recover, but the team was back in the facility Tuesday to start preparing for their opponent, the No. 1-seeded Chiefs. When players met with reporters in the locker room late this afternoon, one topic dominated the discussion.
“It’ll be extremely cold,” cornerback Jason McCourty chuckled. “The one thing is, both teams have to play in it. I’m pretty sure it’s cold there right now. They’ll be practicing in it all week the same way we will. We’ll see how much of a factor that plays, but it’s definitely going to be cold.”
“I don’t know. I don’t think it’ll be too much of a factor,” wide receiver Phillip Dorsett explained, “because it’s not like we’re playing in 10 [degrees] and they’re playing in 50. We’re both playing in the same temperatures. We both have to adjust and be ready for it.”
Arrowhead Stadium, where the game will be played, has a heating system below the grass surface to help keep the turf from freezing, but that apparatus will be put to the test with the frigid weather being forecast in Missouri.
“Sure, you can feel the difference. Some [stadiums] have a heated field, some don’t. We’ll have to see when we get out there. It’ll be cold and the field could still freeze, though,” remarked safety Duron Harmon. “I know for one thing, it’s going to be loud out there, it’s going to be exciting. This is what you live for, this is what you play for. I’m excited for an opportunity to play in this championship game.”
“Without a doubt. It’s an exciting time,” added McCourty. “Even for myself as a football fan not playing in these games in the past, you get exciting seeing two good football teams matched up. Obviously, at this point in the season, when you’re still playing, it’s an exciting time and a challenging time as well.”
Challenging for more than just the expected elements, as Dorsett noted.
“We were 3-5 on the road [during the regular season]. Everybody’s going to criticize us for that, but we have our backs against the wall and we have to go out there and play our best game. That’s the only thing that really matters.”
Arrowhead boasts one of the loudest environments in the NFL, and Sunday night, it could be one of the coldest. The Patriots understand this, but refuse to let it affect their preparation or approach this week, because they’re focused on trying to win this one game for the right to play in Super Bowl LIII two weeks later.
“Your hands are frozen and the ball is frozen. That’s the only thing that’s different,” Dorsett said of the cold weather. “It’s going to be uncomfortable for everybody. You can’t control it, so, you’ve just got to play in it.
“If you want to get where you want to be, you have to empty the tank. There’s no more tomorrow after that game. It’s win or go home. I love playing football and I’m not ready – I don’t think anyone on this team is ready – to be done yet.”
“For us, [the weather is] no factor. It’ll be cold,” Harmon acknowledged, “but at the end of the day, you have to play football, you have to tackle, you have to catch the ball, you’ve got to block, run… you have to do everything to win the game. Just have to block that cold out. We don’t want to think about it down the road that we let the cold have an effect on how we played.
“Everyone’s going to be cold, but the guy who can withstand it, is mentally tough to endure it, has a good chance.”
On Wednesday, the Patriots will go back outside to practice in the cold here in Foxborough, the first of what is likely three days of work before they fly to Kansas City.