Snowball Game

In American football, the Snowball Game was the November 11, 1985 National Football League game between the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos. It was notable for a play in which spectators at Denver's Mile High Stadium disrupted a 49ers field goal attempt by throwing snowballs from the stands.

The Snowball Game
Mile High Stadium on July 13, 1995
Mile High Stadium, the site of the game
San Francisco 49ers
Denver Broncos
16 17
Head coach:
Bill Walsh
Head coach:
Dan Reeves
1234 Total
SF 03103 16
DEN 7703 17
DateNovember 11, 1985
StadiumMile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado
RefereeJim Tunney
TV in the United States
AnnouncersFrank Gifford, Joe Namath and O.J. Simpson

Game summary

Denver scored first with a 3-yard touchdown pass from John Elway to Gene Lang. San Francisco failed to mount any offense on their first three possessions, gaining a total of only 27 yards. Quarterback Joe Montana was sacked twice, for losses of 9 and 10 yards respectively. They were eventually able to answer with a Ray Wersching field goal in the second quarter. Elway threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Steve Watson, and a second 49ers field goal attempt was disrupted by fans, leaving the Broncos up 14–3 at halftime.

The 49ers had more success in the third quarter, with a touchdown pass from Montana to Mike Wilson, and a Wersching field goal. They took the lead in the fourth quarter with another field goal, but Rich Karlis' 24-yard field goal with 1:27 left gave Denver a 17–16 victory.[1]

The snowball

On their last possession of the first half, the 49ers mounted a nine-play drive which ended in a 19-yard field goal attempt. Before holder Matt Cavanaugh received the snap from center, a snowball thrown from the stands landed just in front of him. Distracted, he mishandled the football and was unable to hold it for kicker Ray Wersching. In desperation he picked up the ball and attempted a forward pass, but there were no receivers downfield and it fell incomplete. No penalties or palpably unfair acts were called, and the Broncos took over on downs.[1] They went on to win 17–16, making the failed field goal a pivotal factor.

After the game, referee Jim Tunney explained, "We have no recourse in terms of a foul or to call it on the home team or the fans. There's nothing in the rule book that allows us to do that."[2] He ordered an increase in stadium security at halftime, and no further incidents occurred.[1]

Cavanaugh later said, "I saw the snowball. It broke my concentration. I'm not sure if I got the ball back up in time to kick it, but there must not have been time because Ray decided not to kick it."[3] 49ers center Randy Cross said, "I saw the snowball explode right after I snapped the ball. The ball and the snowball hit right at the same time. It definitely made a difference."[4]

Broncos coach Dan Reeves said, "I don't condone the snowball throwing. There is no place for that kind of activity in pro football. I hope we don't ever see that again." He also expressed doubt that it had disrupted the play, saying "I don't think that Cavanaugh thought it affected him because if it did, he'd still be standing there arguing with the official right now", and "I think if you shot me with a 30.06 when I was a holder – you've still got to catch that football."[5] New York Giants general manager George Young called it "a disgrace when you have a game that's decided on something like a snowball."[6][a]

On November 13, Broncos management announced new policies to eject, prosecute, and revoke the season tickets of any fans found throwing snowballs at Mile High Stadium.[8]

On November 14, NFL rules committee chairman Tex Schramm opined that officials should have intervened, saying "to me, the referee should have killed the play right at that instant, regardless of what happened to the kick."[9]

The San Francisco Examiner offered $500 for an interview with the snowball thrower. A young man (whose name was not disclosed by the paper) came forward on November 15, apologizing for the incident and refusing the money.

"Everybody around us starting calling us jerks...," he said. "That's when I realized that it was stupid. And that's why I'm giving away the tickets for the San Diego game (on Sunday) and going on vacation. I'm taking a lot of ribbing on this and it's not all good-natured."[10]

Scoring summary

  • DEN – Lang 3 yard pass from Elway (Karlis kick)
  • SF – FG Wersching 26
  • DEN – Watson 6 yard pass from Elway (Karlis kick)
  • SF – Wilson 13 yard pass from Montana (Wersching kick)
  • SF – FG Wersching 22
  • SF – FG Wersching 45
  • DEN – FG Karlis 24[1][11]


  • Referee: Jim Tunney (#32)
  • Umpire: Tommy Hensley (#19)
  • Head Linesman: Sid Semon (#109)
  • Line Judge: Boyce Smith (#3)
  • Back Judge: Jim Kearney (#107)
  • Side Judge: Bill Quinby (#58)
  • Field Judge: Ron Spitler (#119)[1]


  1. ^ Ten years later, the Giants – with Young as GM and Reeves as coach – would play host to a similar incident when their fans threw snowballs onto the field in a game against the San Diego Chargers.[7]


  1. ^ a b c d e Miller, Ira (November 12, 1985). "Elway, Broncos Chill the 49ers". San Francisco Chronicle. pp. 61, 63.
  2. ^ "Not a snowball's chance in hell of a penalty call". San Francisco Examiner. Associated Press. November 12, 1985. p. F-4. Retrieved April 3, 2019 – via
  3. ^ Rabun, Mike (November 12, 1985). "Broncos Win Game Of Oddities, Big Plays". Tyrone Daily Herald. Denver. UPI. p. 6. Retrieved April 3, 2019 – via
  4. ^ "Broncos have help from fans". Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Denver. Associated Press. November 12, 1985. p. 11. Retrieved April 3, 2019 – via
  5. ^ Heisler, Mark (December 7, 1985). "Broncos, fans hope to shake Raiders, snowball incident". The Tampa Tribune. Los Angeles. p. 40. Retrieved April 3, 2019 – via
  6. ^ Goldberg, Dave (November 15, 1985). "Bronco fans most loyal". The Santa Fe New Mexican. Associated Press. p. 11. Retrieved April 3, 2019 – via
  7. ^ Kleinfield, N. R. (May 26, 2010). "Meadowlands in February? Watch for Snowballs". The New York Times. Retrieved April 3, 2019.
  8. ^ "Denver Broncos tighten snowball rules". Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Denver. Associated Press. November 13, 1985. p. 23. Retrieved April 3, 2019 – via
  9. ^ "Snowball interfered, official says". Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. New York. Associated Press. November 14, 1985. p. 25. Retrieved April 3, 2019 – via
  10. ^ "Snowball hurler apologizes, won't take money for story". Lincoln Star. San Francisco. Associated Press. November 15, 1985. p. 23. Retrieved April 3, 2019 – via
  11. ^ "San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos – November 11th, 1985". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved July 16, 2011.

External links

1995 New York Giants season

The 1995 New York Giants season was the franchise's 71st season in the National Football League and the third under head coach Dan Reeves. The Giants finished in fourth place in the National Football Conference East Division with a 5–11 record, failing to improve on their 9–7 record from 1994.During one notable game at the end of the season, against the San Diego Chargers, Giants fans threw snowballs onto the field throughout the contest. The actions at the "Snowball Game" resulted in the ejections of 175 fans from Giants Stadium and 15 arrests; San Diego posted a 27–17 victory.

Jim Tunney (American football)

Jim Tunney (born March 3, 1929) is a former American football official in the National Football League (NFL) from 1960 to 1990. In his 31 years as an NFL official, Tunney received a record 29 post-season assignments, including ten Championship games and Super Bowls VI, XI, and XII and named as an alternate in Super Bowl XVIII. He is still the only referee who has worked consecutive Super Bowls, and likely will be the only one to do so.

List of violent spectator incidents in sports

On a number of occasions throughout history, notable sporting participants have been involved in violent confrontations with spectators during a competition. This list includes events in which a spectator at a sporting event was engaged in such a confrontation with an athlete, coach or game official, either through the spectator's intrusion upon the field of play, or (as a result of such an event) a participant entering the spectator seating area. Incidents of object or snow throwing are included when it results in injuries to a match participant or causes significant delays or cancellation of the event.

It does not include incidents of riots or other violence, often outside the event venue, which did not involve game participants.

Lloyd Brazil

Lloyd Brazil (April 24, 1906 – April 3, 1965) was an American athlete, coach and athletic director at the University of Detroit for 38 years. He played halfback for the University of Detroit football team from 1927 to 1929 and was selected as an All-American in 1928 and 1929. After graduating, he remained at the University of Detroit and spent his entire professional career there. He served as the head coach of the baseball and basketball teams, assistant coach of the football team, and director of athletics. He was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 1961 and the University of Detroit Titans Hall of Fame in 1977.

Million Dollar Backfield (San Francisco 49ers)

The Million Dollar Backfield was a National Football League (NFL) offensive backfield of the San Francisco 49ers from 1954 to 1956. Featuring quarterback Y. A. Tittle, halfbacks Hugh McElhenny and John Henry Johnson, and fullback Joe Perry, the backfield was also referred to as the "Fabulous Foursome" and "Fearsome Foursome" by sportswriters. Formed well before players earned six-figure salaries, the unit was named as such for its offensive prowess, and compiled record offensive statistics. It is regarded as one of the best backfields compiled in NFL history, and is the only full house backfield to have all four of its members enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Rodney Culver

Rodney Dwayne Culver (December 23, 1969 – May 11, 1996) was an American football running back who played in the National Football League (NFL) for four seasons. During this time, he played for the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers. Over the course of his career, he played in 43 games, rushed for 689 yards on 241 carries, and ran for 12 touchdowns.

Silicon Dreams

Silicon Dreams is a trilogy of interactive fiction games developed by Level 9 Computing during the 1980s. The first game was Snowball, released during 1983, followed a year later by Return to Eden, and then by The Worm in Paradise during 1985. The next year they were vended together as the first, second and last of the Silicon Dreams. Early advertisements gave it the title of Silicon Dream, but it was pluralised later.As with most Level 9 games, the trilogy used an interpreted language termed A-code and was usable in all major types of home computer of the time, on either diskette or cassette. Level 9 self-published each game separately, but the compilation was published by Telecomsoft, which sold it in the United States with the tradename Firebird and in Europe with the tradename Rainbird.The trilogy is set in a not too-distant future when humans have started colonising space. For the first two instalments the player has the role of Kim Kimberly, an undercover agent, whose goal in Snowball is to save the colonist's spacecraft from crashing into a star, and in Return to Eden to stop the defence system at the destination planet of Eden from destroying the craft. In The Worm in Paradise, the player, with the role of an unnamed citizen of Eden, must travel around the city of Enoch, learn its secrets, earn money and save the planet.

West Coast offense

In American football, the West Coast offense is an offense that places a greater emphasis on passing than on running.

There are two similar but distinct offensive strategic systems that are commonly referred to as "West Coast offenses". Originally, the term referred to the Air Coryell system popularized by Don Coryell. Following a journalistic error, however, it now more commonly refers to the offensive system devised by Bill Walsh while he was the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals, characterized by short, horizontal passing routes in lieu of running plays to "stretch out" defenses, opening up the potential for long runs or long passes. It was popularized when Walsh was the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

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