"The Snowball Game"
Mile High Stadium, the site of the game
1 2 3 4 Total
San Francisco 49ers 0 3 10 3 13
Denver Broncos 7 7 0 3 7
Date November 11, 1985
Stadium Mile High Stadium
Location Denver, Colorado
Referee Jim Tunney
Attendance 73,173
Network ABC
Announcers Frank Gifford, Joe Namath and O.J. Simpson

In American football, the Snowball Game was the name given to 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.

Game summaryEdit

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 snowballEdit

On their last possession of the first half, the 49ers mounted a nine-play drive which ended in a 19-yard field goal attempt. As 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]

Scoring summaryEdit

  • 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][3]


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

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 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: p. F-4. November 12, 1985.
  3. "San Francisco 49ers at Denver Broncos - November 11th, 1985". Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved July 16, 2011.

External linksEdit

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.