Top 9 epic events in Bengals history: The Freezer Bowl

Posted at 9:00 AM, Sep 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-10 09:21:40-04

To commemorate the 50th year of the Bengals, we’re looking back at nine Epic Events that shaped the history of the franchise. Not Epic Moments -- although there are some of them on the list -- but events that had long-lasting effect.

One story will publish each day from now until the Bengals' season opener on Sept. 10.

No. 1: The Freezer Bowl

When we put this list together, there was no question what would be No. 1 on the list. Sunday, Jan. 10, 1982, was the most iconic game in Bengal history. You could argue, in fact, that it was the iconic day in Cincinnati sports history. If you see clips of players billowing clouds of breath on Astroturf, you instantly know it is from the Freezer Bowl.

RELATED: From the Vault -- More on the Freezer Bowl

The metrological facts:

Minus-9 air temperature.

20 to 35 mph winds.

Minus-59 wind-chill factor.

It added up to the coldest NFL game in history. 

The Bengals crushed the San Diego Chargers 27-7 to win the American Football Conference title and advance to Super Bowl XVI. The game was arguably won before the opening kickoff. The Bengals had practiced in the elements while the Chargers were used to sunny San Diego weather. 

Bengals coach Forrest Gregg had played in the Ice Bowl game in 1967 in Green Bay against Dallas. The air temperature for that game was minus-15, but the wind chill only got to minus-48. He took a note out of legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi’s game plan. 

"If there's one thing I learned from Lombardi," Gregg told, ”it was if you're going to play outdoors, you have to practice outdoors. I think that helped us more than anything because we got more reps, more plays in that week outside."

The Bengals linemen and fullback Pete Johnson chose to wear short sleeves, despite the weather. The Chargers were cooked (interesting word choice there) when they cut short their pregame warmups. 

Jim Breech capped the Bengals' first drive with a 31-yard field. The Bengals pushed the lead to 10-0 on Ken Anderson's 8-yard pass to M.L. Harris before the first quarter was over. Harris, by the way, wore gloves like ones you’d wear to shovel snow.

The Chargers closed to within 10-7 on a Dan Fouts 33-yard pass to Kellen Winslow. But the Bengals answered with a touchdown drive capped by a 1-yard Johnson run. 

The Bengals dominated the second half. 

Anderson showed he could effective, despite the fridge weather. He was 14-for-22 for 161 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. The Changers moved the ball -- the Bengals only slightly outgunned them, 318 to 300 yards -- but turnovers were the difference. Fouts threw two interceptions and the Chargers lost two fumbles. 

The game was a sellout, but only 46,302 attended. More than 13,000 tickets sold went unused. 

The rest of the countdown so far:

John Fay is a freelance sports columnist; this column represents his opinion. Contact him at