By the time you read this, the AFC divisional playoff game between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots will be over.

I hope I froze my butt off.

The forecast in Foxborough, Mass., last night called for clear skies and temperatures in the low 20s at kickoff. By the end of the game, that temp was expected to drop to around 17 degrees, but the wind chill would make it feel like a robust 4.

I write this, 25 hours before kickoff, and I say bring it on.

You remember the games that were colder than a meat locker, or a three-hour shower, or so hot, you missed half the game wiping the sweat from your eyes. The details of the game become fuzzy over time, but you never, ever forget what the weather was like.

On Dec. 17, 2000, my friends and I saw the Patriots play in Buffalo during a lake effect snowstorm. We go to Buffalo for a game every year to humor the hopeless Bills fan in our tribe. Every year, that game comes up. It’s the reason we make sure and plan the trip for before Halloween.

With that in mind, here are the worst weather games I’ve attended at Schaeffer/Sullivan/Foxboro Stadium and Gillette Stadium, with the hopes that I’ll be adding last night’s game to the list.

* Sept. 4, 1988, Patriots 28, Jets 3. It was opening day, and the Patriots rolled in the first game of what became a pretty forgettable season.

And it poured. The aisle near our seats was a concrete waterfall. What I remember most is the halftime show.

There was so much standing water on the turf (the stadium had old-fashioned Astroturf at that point, basically a green carpet snugly pulled over a parking lot), that the grounds crew plowed the water off the field.

I went home and looked like a California raisin for a week.

* Sept. 22, 2002, Patriots 41, Chiefs 38, OT. According to the boxscore on, the temperature at kickoff was 74 degrees. It certainly felt hotter than that throughout the entire game.

Maybe it was the Patriots blowing a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter that turned up the heat.

New England finally won on an Adam Vinatieri field goal in overtime, and we wiped the last drops of sweat from our foreheads.

* Dec. 7, 2003, Patriots 12, Dolphins 0. This game is less famous for the weather during the game than it is the weather leading up to kickoff. The previous day, a massive storm dumped 2 feet of snow on New England. If this game had been scheduled for 1 p.m. instead of 4, nobody would have seen it, because the roads in Eastern Massachusetts that Sunday morning were impassible.

As it was, thousands of fans never made it to the game because the Patriots couldn’t clear enough parking spaces. My friend Jeff and I pulled into a parking spot moments after it had been plowed. That’s how it worked that day, plow a row, park ’em, and do it again.

Inside Gillette Stadium, none of the seats had been cleared of snow, so you shoveled by hand enough to wedge yourself in. This ended up working out great. The fans who made it inside were treated to an outstanding defensive effort from the Pats, and all the snow led to those memorable celebration shots and fans tossing the powder into the air.

* Jan. 10, 2004, Patriots 17, Titans 14. This is the game that put the “brrr” in Foxboro. At kickoff it was 4 degrees, and the wind chill made it feel like minus-14. That’s not even T-shirt weather for a polar bear.

I stocked up on hand and feet warmers. They worked as a thermal Novocain, in the sense that my hands and feet felt cold and numb instead of just cold. I tried to drink a longneck beer while tailgating, and I had to perform a pinkie finger angioplasty on the bottle to clear an opening.

I remember hearing Rodney Harrison say, weeks after the game, that the fans rallied the Pats that brutally cold night just by being there and making noise. I clapped hard that night, Rodney, because I hoped beyond hope the friction of my gloves would start a fire.

* Jan. 19, 2002, Patriots 16, Raiders 13, OT. This will always be the gold standard of weather games involving the Patriots.

It didn’t start snowing until a few hours before the game, so when it was time to play, the storm was at its height. Big, fluffy flakes of snow fell all night, and I got a kick out of watching the grounds crew dash across the field with leaf blowers during television timeouts, trying like heck to clear the lines.

When Vinatieri kicked his 45-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime, I never saw the ball. Lost it in the snow. I and, I imagine, most of the fans in Foxboro Stadium that night, had to wait for the officials to give the signal.

When Vinatieri kicked another field goal in overtime, this one a 23-yard chip shot, I saw it the whole way. I hugged and high-fived total strangers, and I watched long snapper Lonnie Paxton make snow angels on the field.

To this day, the Raiders and their fans think they were victims of an NFL mugging, thanks to the tuck rule called that gave the Pats the ball back and set up Vinatieri’s tying kick. They went home cold. My abject joy kept me warm.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242

[email protected]

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