St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford was up front with the Western New York media when talking about playing in the cold.
“That’s not what I like to hear,” Bradford said earlier in the week, when told some snow flurries might fall that day. “I like the warm weather.”
Bradford’s far from alone in that sentiment, of course.
December in Orchard Park takes some getting used to, even for the home team. That’s why coach Chan Gailey has had the Buffalo Bills practice outside once each in the last two weeks.
“I shouldn’t do it if I didn’t think it did [provide a benefit],” Gailey said. “Sometimes they don’t like it. To be honest with you, sometimes I don’t like. It’s cold. So what? That’s the way the game is. You have to go play. Get ready for it.”
With the second of their three December home games coming up, the Bills are trying to convince themselves that the nastier the conditions, the better their chances are.
“We have to be able to embrace that. We have to be able to use that as an advantage for us in these December games,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “As a quarterback, do I hope that it’s really windy and rainy? No, I don’t. But if it is, we have to be able to use that to our advantage.”
That’s something the Bills were able to do against the warm-weather Jacksonville Jaguars, pounding the ball on the ground for 232 yards in a 34-18 win. Buffalo ran the ball 46 times and asked Fitzpatrick to throw it only 17 times.
“Especially in that running back room we feel like we can spark this offense and get us going. Hopefully we can do that, especially coming up in the month of December,” said running back Fred Jackson, who gained a season-high 109 yards on 25 carries against Jacksonville. “It’s going to be nasty out like that. We can take a lot of pressure off everybody on offense if we can go out and perform well.”
With a dome team coming in, it would seem like the Bills have a distinct advantage Sunday. Rams coach Jeff Fisher, however, is taking steps this week to prepare his team.
“We practice outside, and unfortunately, the weather’s been unseasonably warm here in St. Louis, but I’ll probably have a meeting at some point and give the guys the option as to whether or not they want to make the trip,” Fisher said. “If they’re uncomfortable with the cold weather ... we can leave them behind.”
Fisher has made Sunday’s game an opportunity to test his team’s manhood.
“To me, it’s a great challenge. It’s kind of a test of will. You’re going to go up there, the weather’s not going to be ideal. You find out a lot about yourselves,” he said. “Good teams at this time of the year have to run the football and stop the run in order to be successful. And they have to do that outside in the inclement weather, after the leaves have changed, they’re down and wet ... you want me to keep going? Yeah, we’re looking forward to this one.”
The Bills practiced inside the Ralph on Thursday.
“I think our guys get accustomed to what it’s like to be in the stadium under similar weather conditions. It’s never going to be the same because it’s not normally the same two days in a row in Buffalo,” Gailey said.
“So you get similar weather conditions, you get to experience it and then it’s not a big deal. It’s not a shock to them when they walk out there on Sunday. You’re trying to create practice experiences as close to game experiences as you possibly can. One way that you can do it is with weather.”
That’s something the Bills never did under former coach Dick Jauron. Perhaps not coincidentally, those Bills teams under Jauron went 2-4 in December homes game during his tenure.
During the team’s postseason drought, it is 11-15 in December or January home games. Of course, that speaks to a larger point — the team’s play in general hasn’t been good enough.
“At the end of the day you still have to go out there and get your job done,” running back C.J. Spiller said. “We’d like for teams to have to hate coming up here and play at this time of the year. In order to do that you have to win a lot of games.
“Protecting the ball is going to be the main key with teams coming that don’t have this type of weather. It affects them a little bit. Hopefully we’re able to jump on teams early and let that weather be in the back of their head so they can’t play to the best of their ability.”