In what might be best remembered for historic cold, Peacock subscription fees, and Taylor Swift’s omnipresence, the Chiefs breezed by Tyreek Hill and the Miami Dolphins in the wide receiver’s return to frigid Kansas City on Saturday.
As promised, Hill went sleeveless despite temperatures getting down to -30 with wind chill, but his machismo failed to spark a Dolphins team that had dropped 10 straight in games played below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hill did have a touchdown catch on the night, but Miami’s Hawaiian-born quarterback Tua Tagovailoa struggled in the frigid conditions, tossing a costly interception while failing to toss for 200 yards for the first time since the Dolphins’ November 5 loss to the Chiefs in Frankfurt, Germany.
Patrick Mahomes threw for 262 yards and a touchdown and had his helmet shattered when he took a hit in the second half while leading the defending Super Bowl champs to an easy Wild Card round victory.
Officially, it was fourth-coldest game in NFL history on Saturday night, with bitter wind chills that made it feel even colder at kickoff and intrepid fans bundled up in parkas, snow pants and ski goggles.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates after throwing a touchdown
Former Chiefs star Tyreek Hill caught a touchdown pass in his return to Arrowhead Stadium
One Kansas City Chiefs fan summed up the experience at Arrowhead with a simple sign
The temperature for the wild-card playoff game was minus-4 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-20 Celsius), and wind gusts up to 27 mph made for a wind chill of minus-27 degrees. That shattered the record for the coldest game in Arrowhead Stadium history, which had been 1 degree, set in a 1983 game against Denver and matched in 2016 against Tennessee.
The coldest game in league history remains minus-13 for the 1967 NFL championship, when the Packers beat the Cowboys at Lambeau Field in a game that came to be known as the Ice Bowl. The wind chill that day was minus-48 degrees.
The bitter cold Saturday didn’t seem to bother fans, though. Among them was pop superstar-turned-Chiefs fan Taylor Swift, who arrived wearing a puffy winter coat designed to look like the jersey of her boyfriend, Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce.
Although he had one crucial drop, Kelce still recorded seven catches for 71 yards.
Mahomes, the reigning league MVP found Rashee Rice eight times for 130 yards and a touchdown in the wild-card playoff game, and Isiah Pacheco added 89 yards rushing and another score, sending the Chiefs (12-6) past the Dolphins for the first time in four postseason meetings.
Patrick Mahomes of the Kansas City Chiefs greets fans after defeating the Miami Dolphins 26-7
Harrison Butker added four field goals for the defending Super Bowl champs.
The injury-depleted Dolphins (11-7) looked nothing like the dynamic offense that led the league in yards during the regular season. Tagovailoa was pressured relentlessly by the NFL’s second-ranked defense, Hill had a 53-yard TD catch but was otherwise shut down in his return to Kansas City, and the Dolphins finished with just 264 yards in all.
They have not won at Arrowhead Stadium since November 6, 2011, nor won a playoff game since December 30, 2000.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs won their 15th consecutive home playoff game – not counting a trio of Super Bowls. But they could be headed to Buffalo next week if the Bills beat the Steelers on Monday in a game pushed back a day by a blizzard. Otherwise, the Chiefs will host Houston, which beat the Browns earlier Saturday.
Patrick Mahomes heads to the sideline after his helmet was cracked during the third quarter
Although he had one crucial drop, Kelce (center) still recorded seven catches for 71 yards
Many fans began showing up at the parking gates more than 12 hours before kickoff Saturday, beginning their tailgating right in the street. And while there was less tailgating than usual, the smell of pregame barbecue still wafted through the parking lots.
‘We definitely had that initial shock when we looked at the forecast,’ said Chiefs season ticket holder Keaton Schlatter, who drove from West Des Moines, Iowa, for Saturday night’s game. ‘We thought about maybe posting our tickets for sale and if they don’t sell, then we would go. But we decided that it’s all part of the experience.’
At least Chiefs and Dolphins fans could make it to the stadium.
The NFL was concerned that nobody could make it to the Bills’ game against the Steelers on Sunday in Buffalo, where a blizzard was expected to drop a couple of feet of snow. So, the league and New York state officials decided to postpone the wild-card game until Monday, when the brunt of the snow was expected to have ended.
‘We want our Bills to win,’ Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said at a news conference in suburban Buffalo, ‘but we don’t want 60,000 to 70,000 people traveling to the football game in what’s going to be horrible conditions.’
A general view of fans before Miami Dolphins squared off with the Kansas City Chiefs
The snow wasn’t the problem in Kansas City, where more fell Saturday morning but tapered off before kickoff. Rather, the big concern was what the National Weather Service called ‘dangerously cold’ wind chills, which were expected to make a forecasted temperature of minus-10 degrees by the finish feel more like minus-30.
‘The spectators need to be prepared. Think cold ski trip or ice fishing,’ said Dr. Sarah Spelsberg, who teaches in Northeastern University’s Graduate Program in Extreme Medicine. ‘If it’s me, I’m wearing ski goggles, too. There would not be a millimeter of my skin showing in these temperatures. I had frostbite one time and I never wanted to have it again.’
About six hours before kickoff, stadium workers began to plow snow from the tarp covering the field, scoop it into trucks and drive it away. The field itself is heated, though, and it appeared to thaw out as gametime approached.
Taylor Swift is seen waving to fans at Arrowhead Stadium following the Chief’s playoff win
Swift attends the AFC Wild Card Playoffs between the i Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs
Hill, who was back at Arrowhead Stadium for his first game since Kansas City traded him away, walked out for pregame warmups wearing a short-sleeve shirt. Chiefs linebacker Leo Chenal, who grew up in Wisconsin, arrived wearing shorts. Several other players, including Kelce, also had skin showing when the Chiefs took the field for their opening drive.
By the second quarter, Chiefs coach Andy Reid had icicles in his mustache. In the third, Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes had his helmet shattered on a hit from Miami safety DeShon Elliott.
As for the fans, the Chiefs had numerous warming stations throughout the stadium, and they bent some of their rules to help them deal with the weather. Fans were allowed to carry in blankets, provided they had no zippers or compartments, and could use portable chargers to power the kind of heated apparel that Schlatter was bringing to the game.
Fans also could bring cardboard to put under their feet, a useful tip Chiefs safety Justin Reid passed along this week.
‘Trying to figure out what to wear that will be the warmest has been the concerning part,’ said Lauren Bays, a Chiefs fan from Smithville, Missouri. ‘I’ve been thinking of ways to add warmth all week and did find a pair of ski goggles that I plan to wear.’