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NFL

Steelers at Browns: How fast was the wind at the game? How does wind affect field goals?

Week 2′s Thursday Night Football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns played out under stiff, swirling winds, making it a difficult game at times

Update:
Week 2’s Thursday Night Football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns played out under stiff, swirling winds, making it a difficult game at times
David DermerUSA TODAY Sports

The winds in Cleveland were stiff and swirling on Thursday night, particularly so in FirstEnergy Stadium, leading to a matchup between the Steelers and Browns that was at times difficult to watch.

Traditionally, when the wind is up as it was in Cleveland, and particularly when it is swirling and changing directions, football reverts to its roots by keeping the ball on the ground. While that is no bad thing, it certainly adds a level of difficulty to the match, switching it to a defensive war of attrition rather than a quarterback shootout.

But one aspect of the game that can not help but try and work through the wind is the kicking game. By its very nature, footballs must fly through the air. And with the best will in the world, an iffy kick is still a higher percentage play than either a two-point conversion or going for it on fourth-and-lots. Even in swirling winds, you take your chances on the kick.

With forecasted winds at around 20 mph, the real issue was the wind shear, which is the variation in wind speed over a relatively short distance. Microbursts of between 10 and 15 mph could send a football flying a dozen yards or more to the right or left of its intended target.

While all types of weather affect football profoundly, the wind perhaps most visually affects a football game, with 20 mph winds dropping the average field goal distance by seven yards and the conversion rate by 6%.

This was evidenced in Thursday’s game with Cleveland’s Cade York missing an extra point and Pittsburgh’s Chris Boswell missing a 53 yard field goal. Both are fairly automatic for these kickers and both hit the ball dead center of the uprights before the wind took the ball to the right, York’s bouncing off the upright and Boswell missing wide.

In the end, the Browns ground out a 29-17 win over the Steelers, in a game that had its highlights, but overall was pretty ugly to watch. Going into the half down 14-13, Cleveland took control in a second half that looked as if Pittsburgh had left all of its will to win in the locker room. Keeping the ball on the ground, the Browns offense was fueled by Nick Chubb, who finished the night with 113 yards on 23 carries. Without TJ Watt on the Steelers defense, they simply had no answer for the run.

One highlight of the night was George Pickens pulling down perhaps the catch of the season for the Steelers. If only they could have strung more of that together, then we would have seen a different game.

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