As snow fell during the Ravens' game at M&T Bank Stadium for the first time since the team arrived in 1996, coach John Harbaugh wondered if there were any weather conditions his team hadn't faced yet.
Before the Ravens beat the Minnesota Vikings 29-26 on Sunday in icy conditions, the Ravens played through severe storms in Chicago on Nov. 17 and during heavy rain in a preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Aug. 8.
"The first half we could barely see," Harbaugh said. "I'm glad they were wearing purple pants, I'm not sure we would have ever seen them out there."
Rookie wide receiver Marlon Brown — who had Sunday's game-winning touchdown catch with four seconds left — led Ravens receivers with seven catches for 92 yards in one of the coldest games of his life.
"It was crazy," said Brown, who played college ball at the University of Georgia. "That was the first time I saw real, real snow, falling down, more than a couple of centimeters."
Three hours before kickoff and without a flurry in sight, snow plows filled the streets surrounding M&T Bank Stadium. Tailgaters huddled around propane-grills and bumbled in heavy coats and clumsy gloves. There had been rumors all week that there might be snow, though many didn't expect it to last.
"We heard a little bit of snow and maybe some possible freezing rain," said Sheila Roe from Salisbury, who was there with her husband and two sons. "But we didn't think it would be anything like this."
The snow came around noon and, once it did, stayed for good. Stadium workers cleared the field before kickoff with plows rigged to John Deere tractors, only to be covered again 15 minutes later. It eventually turned into a freezing rain, but not before dumping a reported five inches of snow on Ravens fans for the first time in franchise history.
The winter storm, which hit Dallas earlier this week, sprawled across the East Coast, causing snow games in Landover for the Washington Redskins and in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Howard County resident Shawn Lewis stood up and scanned the crowd with his iPhone before posting a picture on Instagram.
"I actually never imagined myself coming to a cold, snowy game," Lewis said. "This is probably the best experience I've had. I've been to a lot of games, but never like this."
Fans stopped as they entered the stadium concourse, shaking off their jackets only to get covered again when they found their seats. In the lower level, Maynard and Karen Miller cheered in royal purple ponchos. There was no way the couple would skip this one, after attending every home game since becoming season-ticket holders 12 seasons ago.
"As long as we win — you have to have the win — it makes it worth it," Maynard said in the first quarter. "Minnesota should be used to this kind of weather, but we can adjust to it."
Mistakes were made early as players adjusted to the frostbitten field. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw his first of three interceptions on the day, under-throwing Bernard Pierce on a wheel route. On one possession, the Vikings fumbled, recovered it, and then fumbled again two plays later.
The weather contributed to the unpredictability of a game that could only be considered chaotic. Players dropped passes, lost their footing and had trouble cutting on the slick turf.
Tight end Dennis Pitta, who caught the first of five touchdowns scored in the final two minutes and five seconds, said the conditions improved after the first half.
"The conditions were pretty brutal, the footing was terrible and the game was just so slow," Pitta said. "The second half, they cleared the field off and the snow let up and it was actually a freezing rain."
Ravens rookie safety Matt Elam was the last defender when Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson broke free on a screen pass with less than a minute left. When he turned to try and catch Patterson, he slipped, giving up the 79-yard touchdown.
"I tried to take a straight angle toward him as he was heading to the sideline," Elam said. "He cut back on me and I tried to turn my feet around, but I slipped on the ice."
The cold was surprising for Elam, who was out of his element one year removed from playing at Florida, though he did contribute with three tackles and a fumble recovery.
"I've never even been outside in conditions like this," he said. "I was so excited to be playing in the snow."
Though he was on the losing side, Minnesota's Jared Allen was able to revel in the rarity of the moment.
"It was kind of fun out there. We don't get to play in those conditions often," said the 10-year veteran and defensive end. "All of us were goofing around with the guys driving snow plows. They kept leaving ice rocks on the field and we gave them a hard time about it."
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