Green Bay Tundra Warmer Than $20 Galoshes of NFL Ice BowlErik Matuszewski
The cold snap in Wisconsin is supposed to end by Sunday, when the Green Bay Packers host the Dallas Cowboys in the National Football League playoffs. The Cowboys heard that 47 years ago before the “Ice Bowl” too.
While the temperature in Green Bay is hovering around 0 Fahrenheit (-18 Celsius), it’s forecast to be about 15 degrees at kickoff for the second-round matchup. The wind chill is expected to make the temperature feel in the single digits, yet AccuWeather forecaster Paul Pastelok said it’ll seem downright balmy compared with the last time the Packers hosted the Cowboys in an NFL postseason game on New Year’s Eve in 1967.
Gil Brandt, the Cowboys’ vice president of player personnel from 1960 through 1989, recalls a similar forecast for the 1967 NFL Championship. Instead, when the teams headed to Lambeau Field on game day, it was 13 degrees below zero with wind chills that made it feel like -40.
“As we get to the field, about an hour before game time, and go out on the field to warm up there was not a soul in the stands,” Brandt said in a telephone interview. “It was like there was no game, nobody there. Usually it’s at least half full. But about five to 10 minutes before kickoff, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.”
More than 47 years later, the game remains one of the most storied in NFL history. It featured a pair of Hall of Fame coaches in Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry, a field that was like a sheet of ice and a memorable finish, with Bart Starr scoring on a quarterback sneak with 16 seconds left to give the hometown Packers a 21-17 victory. Cowboys defensive tackle Jethro Pugh, who was blocked by the Packers’ Ken Bowman and Jerry Kramer as Starr dove over the goal line, died this week of natural causes at age 70.
The temperature during the Packers’ winning drive was -18, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, though none of the more than 50,000 parka-clad fans had left even though some the players weren’t enthused to be there.
“It’s the first time and the only time that I’ve ever seen nobody wanted to be on the sidelines,” said Brandt, who wore a pair of size-12 galoshes he’d rented from a bus driver at the team hotel for $20. “It was ghastly cold.”
The Packers had more cold-weather experience than the Cowboys that day and have put their home-field advantage to good use this season. Green Bay was 8-0 at Lambeau Field this season, outscoring opponents 39.8 to 20.4.
In his past 16 home games, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has thrown for 4,341 yards, 38 touchdowns and no interceptions. Rodgers has been nursing a calf injury this week.
“It’s going to be a challenge this week, in those conditions, against that football team,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said this week at a news conference.
The Cowboys this season became the sixth team in NFL history to go 8-0 on the road. The five previous teams to do it all reached their conference championships, while four made the Super Bowl and two won the NFL title.
This is the third playoff meeting between a team that went unbeaten at home and a club that didn’t lose on the road during the regular season. The last time was in 1972, when the Miami Dolphins played in Pittsburgh and knocked off the Steelers en route to a perfect season. In 1948, the Philadelphia Eagles won at home against the Chicago Cardinals.
“Winning eight games on the road, that’s exceptional,” said Packers coach Mike McCarthy. “That doesn’t happen very often. So we have a lot of respect for what they’ve accomplished.”
The Packers, whose last home loss came in the divisional round of last year’s playoffs against San Francisco, are listed by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook as six-point favorites.
The first of the four second-round playoff games is in Foxborough, Massachusetts, where the weather could be almost as cold as in Green Bay when the New England Patriots host the Baltimore Ravens as 7-point favorites on Jan. 10.
The gametime temperature is projected to be around 24 degrees Fahrenheit, according to AccuWeather, with winds of 15 to 25 miles per hour making it feel below 10 degrees. It’ll feel even colder when the sun goes down about an hour after the 4:35 p.m. kickoff at Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots are 12-3 at home in the postseason since 2001, yet two of those losses came against the Ravens: in a wild-card game after the 2009 season and in the American Football Conference title game two years ago.
While the 43 postseason touchdown passes thrown by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady are two shy of tying Joe Montana for the NFL record, the seven road playoff wins by Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco are the most in league history. Flacco’s streak of 166 pass attempts in the playoffs without an interception is the fourth-longest all-time.
“Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens are not going to be intimidated going into Foxborough,” said former Ravens coach Brian Billick, who is now an NFL analyst for NFL Network.
Also on Saturday, the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks are 11-point favorites at home against the Carolina Panthers. The Seahawks finished the regular season with a six-game winning streak in which they allowed 39 points. They’re the first NFL team to win their final six games and give up less than 40 points since the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers.
In the final game of the second round, the Denver Broncos host the Indianapolis Colts as 7-point favorites. The Broncos went undefeated at home this season and have won 17 of their past 18 games, including the playoffs, at Sports Authority Field at Mile High over the past two years.