The snowplow game aptly was named after one of the most infamous stunts in NFL history.
This game was recently brought up when it was compared with the Bear’s attempt to use a towel to wipe up the swimming pool that the kicker was punting out of. At least the plow worked.
It was also the reasoning behind the Buffalo Bills brushing snow away from Tyler Bass’s kicking location with just their hands in their game against the Miami Dolphins this season.
When was the Snowplow Game?
The Snowplow Game occurred between the New England Patriots and the Miami Dolphins on December 12th of 1982 in Foxboro, MA.
Where did the name come from?
A snowplow clearing the snow for the kicker to make the game winning field goal (and only game points) in the last five minutes of the game. The term snowplow is optimistic at best – it was actually a humble John Deere tractor with a brush attached to the front that’s usually used to clear leaves.
Why was the Snowplow Game so influential (and controversial)?
Many people earmark this as the beginning of the cheating scandals the Patriots are well known for.
From the Dolphin’s perspective (and many others in the League) the Patriots had used the “snowplow” to clear a space for the kicker to kick a field goal. The Dolphins were shocked – the “snowplow” was only to be used to clear the yard markers.
No one is quite sure who sent the Snowplow operator to clear the field – many say the coach, and the coach blamed the quarterback.
The patriots feel quite different. They feel that the snowplow wasn’t even particularly helpful – the snowplow threw snow on to the area that players had cleared with their hands, and only hampered the process. Allegedly, players had to rush back to the spot to clear the area before time ran out.
In an act of what can be perceived as good will the Patriots offered to let the Dolphins use the snowplow to clear the area when they kick. The Dolphins were mortified by this unethical suggestion. Don Shula claims this was the most unfair thing he had been associated with in coaching.
This game forever changed the rules – players can now only use their hands and feet to clear an area. Don Shula took this to the NFL commissioner, wanting the results of the game to be reversed. This didn’t happen because there was no rule on utilizing a snowplow up until that point.
Because the Miami Dolphins rise above problematic behaviors on the field, they sold plastic snowballs for fans to throw at the Patriots when they entered the field for years after.
The Snowplow Game Hero
Mark Henderson, the Snowplow operator is famous, memorialized in time as a local legend.
Mr. Henderson was there on work release from a local prison. He joked about the controversy regarding his rogue snowplowing “what are they gonna do, throw me in jail?”
Players described this as one of the coldest games they have ever played in. Mr. Henderson operated this snowplow through the inclement weather cementing his place in NFL history.
For hot takes on very chilly games in the future, keep up with my articles here.