MINNEAPOLIS – Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman began to grasp just how cold it was when he felt his contact lenses starting to freeze during pregame warmups. For rookie receiver Tyler Lockett, that realization came when he saw the icicles on receivers coach Dave Canales' beard.
As much as the Seahawks wanted to downplay the weather during the buildup to their wild-card game at Minnesota, there was no doubt that the minus-6 degree temperature—the third lowest in NFL playoff history—had a big impact on the game for both teams.
"The elements made it as challenging as a game can be," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "You can look at this game and try to evaluate a lot of stuff and say, 'You didn't do this, you didn't do that,' but this was really a survival game for both teams."
The impact was obvious in the kicking game, from the short punts and kickoffs to Seattle's decision to go for it twice on fourth down rather than kick long field goals. But the cold also slowed down Seattle's passing game, with Wilson missing a handful of throws he usually makes, including a couple of deep balls that died in the air and fell short of the intended target.
"I missed a couple of throws," Wilson said. "I missed one early to Fred Jackson, I feel like I never miss that throw, so that was a little off. Other than that it wasn't bad. The deep balls were a little tougher."
Wilson said the bigger issue might have been communicating in a noisy TCF Bank Stadium because it was so cold he had a hard time yelling as loud as he usually would.
"The hardest part was commutating, because it was so cold your mouth kept freezing," Wilson said. "But it's no excuse, you've got to find a way to win, and that's what we were able to do."
All weather-related issues aside, players and Carroll praised the job done by Seattle's training staff to keep them warm throughout the game. Playing in subzero temperatures is never fun, but it's not as bad as it was decades ago when there weren't heated benches, sideline heaters, and better clothing.
"The other side of it was the technology that's out, it isn't the same as when Bud (Grant) was coaching (in Minnesota)," Carroll said. "It's different. Our (trainers) took care of our guys throughout the game. They made it through and were able to play at a high level with all the help they got. It was really fascinating to me to see how comfortable it was under the circumstances."
Grant, Carroll's former boss and one of the coaches who influenced him the most, reminded everyone of his toughness before the game when he went out on the field for the opening kickoff wearing a short-sleeved shirt.
"That's just Bud," Carroll said. "He was right at the time, it just doesn't make any sense at all now."
Here's what players said about the weather:
Sherman: "My contact lens almost froze over… You can never prepare for that kind of weather, that kind of cold."
Defensive end Cliff Avril: "It actually wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. Once you get a feel for what you need to do to keep your hands and you're feet warm, you're good."
Lockett: "Anything below 20 is going to feel the same. We went out there and warmed up, our coach (Dave Canales)'s beard was an icicle.
"But it's the playoffs, it's win or go home, so regardless of the conditions, we understand it's going to be hard, but we can't blame that, there's no excuses."
Receiver Doug Baldwin:"Extremely difficult. I'd be lying to you if I said I was ready for this. You can't be. I've never experienced anything like this. I definitely underestimated it, thinking mentally I was going to be able to get through it easily, but it took a lot more effort to get through it.
"I'm just thankful for our equipment guys and our training staff; they did a hell of job of preparing us for this game."
Defensive end Michael Bennett: "It was like playing in Antarctica, but (shoot), we had to just do what we did. It was frozen out there, everybody played hard for both teams. It was a running game, we kind of figured that was going to happen."
Temperature don't shake the faithful 12s that traveled to Minnesota to cheer on the Seahawks for the NFC Wild Card matchup against the Vikings.