Saturday night's sub-zero conditions in Kansas City didn't break the record for coldest game. It did break the helmet of Patrick Mahomes.
The maker of the helmet has issued a statement explaining that, despite the failure of the helmet, it still successfully protected Mahomes.
"At VICIS, athlete safety is our top priority," the company said in a statement issued on Tuesday. "Extreme conditions like those experienced in Saturday evening's NFL playoff game are bound to test the limits of even the highest performing products. While outer shell damage is not ideal, the ZERO2 helmet did its job of protecting Patrick Mahomes during a head-to-head impact in unprecedented cold temperatures. The exclusive multi-layer technology employed in the VICIS ZERO2 helmet model utilizes a deformable outer shell, RFLX impact absorption layer, followed by a stiff inner shell. This design approach is similar to the crumple zone of modern cars, effectively absorbing and dispersing impact forces at the point of contact. This technology, which has earned the top ratings of the NFL Performance Testing rankings and sits atop the Virginia Tech ratings, has been adopted by several athletes across the NFL, NCAA, and throughout high school and youth football.
"VICIS helmets are extensively tested in high-impact conditions across a wide range of temperatures. We are committed to continuing our development of the safest helmets in football and working with our partners in the NFL and other organizations to constantly gain knowledge and continuously advance protective technology. We remain focused on protecting athletes at every level of play by developing the highest performing products available. As the leader in technology advancement within the football protective space, our confidence in the superior performance of our helmet designs has never been greater."
Other questions remain. Does the "wide range" of temperatures include below zero, especially after the helmet has been in those conditions for multiple hours? As Chris Simms pointed out on Monday's PFT Live, was the periodic slamming of his helmet on the ground throughout the season a factor in the weakening of the shell?
Likewise, should there have been an immediate stoppage of play when Mahomes helmet broke? What specifically did happen and what should have happened?
We asked the NFL those last two questions on Sunday morning. The league did not respond.
Clearly, it's a horrible look from a health-and-safety standpoint to have a player's helmet literally break and for a piece of it to go flying and to have no one do anything about it. The officials didn't. The replay assistant didn't. The spotters didn't. No one did anything.
It could be another example of the NFL having too many people who have the power to stop play and that no one specific person has the gumption to do it, waiting instead for someone else to act. Likewise, it's possible no one even knew what the protocol would have been after the proverbial "stop" button was pressed. Remove Mahomes and require a backup to play until he has a sufficient helmet? Stop the game until he can get another helmet?
Here's one thing that is safe to say. There will be a procedure going forward. The NFL is notoriously reactive, not proactive. It failed to imagine the possibility of a helmet breaking during a game. Now that one has, it will develop a procedure for the next time it happens.