Flashback: The Freezer Bowl

With the Cincinnati Bengals hosting the San Diego Chargers this weekend, we take a look at when these teams met over 30 years ago for the honor of playing in the Super Bowl.

This post was originally published Jan. 10, 2012. Considering it's obvious connection to this weekend, we wanted to rerun it.

Temperatures reportedly dropped to 37 degrees below zero. It was nicknamed the Freezer Bowl. Factoring in the wind chill, it's was the coldest known NFL game in the history of forever.

It was the last and only time that the Cincinnati Bengals hosted the San Diego Chargers in the playoffs. And it wasn't just a Wild Card game either. It was the '81 AFC Championship Game (Jan. 10, 1982) with the winner earning a right to play in the Super Bowl.

The Chargers comprised of a mighty offense, with future Hall of Famers such as quarterback Dan Fouts, tight end Kellen Winslow and former Bengals wide receiver Charlie Joiner. Though with only one future Hall of Famer on the roster (Anthony Munoz), the Cincinnati Bengals starting lineup had a who's who in Bengals history.

Names like Ken Anderson, Dave Lapham, Anthony Munoz and Cris Collinsworth are widely known to most folk. Others might not be, even to the younger generation of Bengals fans.

Defensive end Eddie Edwards (83.5), Reggie Williams (62.5) and Ross Browner (59.0) remain as the best three pass rushers in franchise history. Ken Riley (65) and Louis Breeden (33) hold the top two franchise records for most interceptions in a career. Linebacker Jim LeClair was the last Bengals linebacker, before Vontaze Burfict this year, to make the Pro Bowl (1976). Max Montoya is arguably the best offensive guard and Dan Ross holds most of the team records as a tight end. The starting lineup.

Ken Anderson QB Eddie Edwards LDE
Charles Alexander RB Wilson Whitley NT
Pete Johnson FB Ross Browner RDE
Cris Collinsworth WR Bo Harris LOLB
Isaac Curtis WR Jim LeClair LILB
Dan Ross TE Glenn Cameron RILB
Anthony Munoz LT Reggie Williams ROLB
Dave Lapham LG Louis Breeden LCB
Blair Bush C Ken Riley RCB
Max Montoya RG Bobby Kemp SS
Mike Wilson RT Bryan Hicks FS

Roughly 46,000 packed Riverfront Stadium, dealing with wind chills reportedly 50 degrees below zero and worse. Bengals players predictably believed that the cold temperatures gave them a decided advantage over a team based out of sunny San Diego.

The Bengals won 27-7. Cincinnati's defense held San Diego to 301 yards from scrimmage with quarterback Dan Fouts completing 15 of 28 passes for 185 yards passing and only one score. Hall of Famers Kellen Winslow (three catches, 47 yards) and Charlie Joiner (three catches, 41 yards) were limited while Cincinnati's rushing offense pounded San Diego 36 times for 143 yards.

"We knew we had a feeling for the ball in the cold," Dan Ross told the Associated Press. "We dressed differently than they did. They just had sweat shirts on." Ross posted a team-high five receptions for 69 yards receiving.

"I'm still freezing. And I had on thermal socks, thermal underwear, everything," said Pete Johnson. "I even wore two pairs of gloves. One of them was rubber so I could grip the ball better." Johnson, who scored one of Cincinnati's three touchdowns, led the Bengals with 80 yards rushing on 21 carries.

In the end the weather didn't matter. From the Associated Press:

The sight of the Bengals carrying Coach Forrest Gregg from the field on their shoulders overwhelmed Paul Brown, the franchise's founder, current general manager and former coach.

Gazing down from his box in Riverfront Stadium, Brown said, "I'm choked up, but it's a good feeling. This is a great day for the team and the city."

After all, the Bengals were headed to their first Super Bowl over 30 years ago. Veterans of Cincinnati. Speak up if you were there or remember watching the game.

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