The weather forecast holds promise.
Dreaming of a White Packers home game is now almost wished upon as much as a White Christmas.
Not that a White Christmas is a huge necessity; at least a Christmas without snow ensures getting to Grandma’s and back safely.
But white-out Packers games become instant memories.
Sadly, it doesn’t seem to happen as often these days – damn global warming.
Last week didn’t quite feel like December at Lambeau. 45 balmy degrees, and a playing surface that looked more September than the frozen tundra. Any warmer and it might as well been the Metrodome.
OK, 28 days before the previous home game and the grounds crew gets some of the credit, although an old-fashioned, sloppy surface would have helped stopping Adrian Peterson at least a little.
This Sunday is a bit different; you can’t keep winter out of Wisconsin too long in December.
According to AccuWeather, exactly 3.33 inches of snow is forecast. If it were a 12 noon start this would make for the NFL’s ultimate Christmas picture postcard scene.
Unfortunately, this is the Sunday night game, and the snow is scheduled to start tapering off by the time the tarp comes off the field for pre-game warmups.
Not that it will really matter as the game is concerned, since the Detroit Lions never win in the state of Wisconsin, no matter what the weather.
But with the snowy forecast in play, I proudly present the ten most memorable weather games in Green Bay Packers history.
10. December 6, 1992 – Packers 38, Lions 10 (Milwaukee)
You continue to hear the stat: the last time the Lions won in ‘Wisconsin’ was in 1991. The word Wisconsin, as opposed to Lambeau Field, is used because the streak dates back to when the Packers played part of their schedule at Milwaukee County Stadium.
The first game of the current streak was one such game that was outsourced to Milwaukee, on a snowy 21-degree day (when winter was truly winter). By late in the first quarter the field had become snow-covered when Sterling Sharpe was completing a 65-yard TD catch and run.
One problem: with the yard-lines dusted off (but the numbers obscured), Sharpe slowed up at the five-yard line, mistaking it for the end zone. A Detroit player was able to knock the ball out of Sharpe’s hand, but it bounced straight back to him (Aussie Rules style) and Sterling quickly realized the situation and sprinted past the goal line.
The play ended in the end zone that ran up against the third-base stands at County Stadium and jutted into the corner of that end zone. The stands were so close to the playing field that it would be easy to understand a player thinking he was actually in the end zone at that point.
Another quirk of County Stadium was that most years the baseball infield was not sodded, even after the conclusion of the MLB season. This led to several instances of rainy games resulting in uniforms so mud-filled that identification of players became difficult.
9. November 27, 2006 – Seahawks 34, Packers 24 (at Seattle)
‘HOW COOL IS THIS!!??’ Mike Tirico exclaimed at the opening of this Monday Night broadcast from what was becoming a snow-covered Qwest Field (that would be one corporate acquisition ago). Meanwhile, bewildered Packers fans watching back home were left wondering when such weather might head their way, as it had been a balmy November.
This game is best remembered for a bogus roughing the passer call on Cullen Jenkins on Matt Hasselbeck that ultimately decided the outcome.
Although Seattle is warm enough during the winter that the city itself does not see much snow, the Seahawks have now had two snow games since playing outdoors in 2000. The other occasion was against the Jets in December of the following a year, a game that ended with a frustrated Jets player pushing a large boulder of snow that had been plowed off into the paying spectators.
Meanwhile the Packers would get another shot at Seattle in the snow a little over a year later.
8. October 15, 1984 – Broncos 17, Packers 14 (at Denver)
The 2006 game was not the first MNF snow game in Packers history. On this evening 22 years earlier, a classic early season Rocky Mountain storm blanketed Mile High Stadium for the ABC telecast. The first two plays from scrimmage in the game were Packers fumbles returned for Denver touchdowns, which went far towards determining the winner.
On the stat-sheet the Packers dominated. Lynn Dickey threw for 371 yards while John Elway only threw for 101. James Lofton caught 11 passes for 206 yards and a score. A late sack/fumble of Dickey ultimately sealed the game for Denver.
A confession on that night: this was the last time I actually won an office pool. This is because 1) I suck at picking games, and 2) every place I’ve worked past 20 years has banned such activity.
Damn Human Resource Handbook.
7. December 26, 1993 – Packers 28, Raiders 0
The Ice Bowl is famously remembered as being the coldest home game in Packers history. This game, along with the ill-fated 2007 NFC Championship, remains in the running for number two on the list.
The saving grace of the Packers/Giants ’07 game is that there at least was not much wind. The day after Christmas 1993, however, was a little more brutal. Game-time temperature was -3 with a wind-chill of -20. The conditions were no match that day for the Los Angeles Raiders, with quarterback Jeff Hostetler taking an awful beating and getting concussed so bad that he sadly didn’t realize how cold it truly was.
The most memorable play that day was a fumble recovery by Reggie White, who subsequently lateraled to LeRoy Butler, who wound up scoring on the play. After reaching the end zone, Butler jumped into the bundled crowd in such a fashion that he seemed suspended on the wall in bar-fly like fashion. Inadvertently, Butler began a tradition with that action today is known as the Lambeau Leap.
And then there was Mike Holmgren’s coaching staff that year: Ray Rhodes, Jon Gruden, Andy Reid, Steve Mariucci.
Pretty good ‘assistants’ I way.
With the win, the Packers wound up clinching what would be only their second playoff berth in 21 years.
6. 1965 NFL Championship – Packers 23, Browns 12
The 1967 Ice Bowl gets much more love, but the 1965 mud-filled Championship game also goes down in Lombardi-era lore. The start of the ’65 Championship Game was actually delayed as the heavy-wet snow that fell the night before and into the morning had to be shoveled off the tarp. The game began with a snow-covered field turned to mud by the second half as the diminishing snow had turned to rain/sleet.
A textbook power sweep with Paul Hornung running for a score is remembered as the signature play that helped seal what would be the third of five Green Bay championships under Lombardi.
Not known at the time: this would end up being the final game of the career of Cleveland’s Jim Brown, to this day arguably the best player in NFL history. It was also the final game for the Packers backfield combo of Hornung and Jim Taylor.
5. 1996 Divisional Playoff – Packers 35, 49ers 14
The early-90s edition of the Packers broke into a new level by winning a 1995 Divisional Playoff in San Francisco, before losing the NFC Championship Game in Dallas. That set the stage for what would become known as the ‘Riot Game’ at Lambeau between the Niners and the Packers during the 1996 regular season.
One of the turning points that Monday night was a 59-yard catch/run for a touchdown by Don Beebe, which should have been brought back since replays showed Beebe clearly down by contact, but instant replay reviews were not in effect then (Niners got even with ‘Jerry Rice fumbled’ two years later).
After the Packers OT win, celebrations erupted all over Wisconsin, including students breaking into the stadium at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and tearing down goal posts. Similar rowdiness was also reported on the campuses Wisconsin-LaCrosse and Wisconsin-Whitewater.
The 1996 rematch wound up being played in similar conditions to the 1965 Browns/Packers playoff. The weather was actually warm by Wisconsin standards, but a steady rain caused water to be trapped in the re-sodded portion of the field which was frozen underneath.
The field was still playable as Desmond Howard set the tone with two two first quarter returns (the first for a TD) before the surface deteriorated badly. By the fourth quarter the field got so bad that the entire surface had to be replaced in the week before the NFC Championship. Portions of the torn-up field ended up being sold for a hefty price by the team, and the process was repeated for the field used for the conference title game (a heavy, bluegrass surface that could withstand the weather).
Steve Young attempted to start the playoff game after receiving numerous injections to ribs that were said to be bruised but were in fact broken. It would be Young’s second awful career experience at Lambeau (the other is chronicled later). The Packers won despite Brett Favre throwing for only 76 yards in the air.
4. 2007 NFC Championship (1/20/08) – Giants 23, Packers 20
Giants fans have this near the top of their lists.
Forgotten was how far and how quickly the Packers rebuilt themselves from a 4-12 record in 2005 to get to this point. The 2006 team (Mike McCarthy’s first year) started 4-8 and won its final four games and was still mathematically alive for a playoff spot the following weekend. The momentum continued into the following year, with the Packers becoming the NFC’s #2 seed and hosting this game based on the Giants winning in Dallas in the Divisional Round.
As soon as the Giants defeated the Cowboys, talk quickly turned to the extremely cold temperatures forecast for the NFC Championship. It seemed like the stars were aligned for Green Bay in what some billed as Ice Bowl II.
Be careful what you wish for. This was the game Eli Manning truly became of age and Plexico Burress used Al Harris as his personal chew toy that night. Still, the Packers caught a break when Lawrence Tynes missed a field goal at the end of regulation and Green Bay won the coin toss. But then Favre threw one of his patented overtime picks and Tynes soonafter hit the game winning 47-yarder to send New York to what would be an eventual Super Bowl championship.
3. December 1, 1985 – Packers 21, Buccaneers 0
Maybe the most brutal weather conditions ever for an NFL game, with around a foot of snow on the playing surface and 20 mph winds. Less than 20,000 were physically able to attend the game, and many got to Lambeau via snowmobile. This was Steve Young’s most infamous pre-49er appearance in the NFL, when he was sacked four times by Alphonso Carraker.
Surprisingly, Lynn Dickey threw for 299 yards and two Green Bay backs went over 100 yards rushing.
Since both teams sucked at the time, the game didn’t air outside the teams’ home markets, but you can check out 15 minutes of the original broadcast here (complete with weather bulletins warning of blowing/drifting snow). If similar weather conditions were to be forecast for a game today (with the public being asked to stay at home), it would likely be postponed – as was the case for the scheduled Vikings/Eagles Sunday night game a couple years back.
2. 2007 NFC Divisional Playoff (1/12/08) – Packers 42, Seahawks 20
The day that proved how absolutely awesome my then relatively-new HD set actually was.
In what would prove to be the final home Lambeau win of Brett Favre’s career, this game shared a common thread with the 1984 MNF game in Denver as Ryan Grant fumbled away his first two carries of the day.
But Grant redeemed himself, eventually rushing for 200+ yards and three scores in the snow globe conditions, which intensified in the third quarter to the point that trucks were eventually needed to clear the yard markers and hashmarks.
Favre’s improvised underhand completion, and throwing a snowball after a touchdown, were also memorable images from that game, which also saw Favre make the Sports Illustrated cover.
BTW – Ryan Grant has been activated for Sunday Night Football; get him on your fantasy team if you believe in karma.
1. 1967 NFL Championship (12/31/67) – Packers 21, Cowboys 17
What amazes me about the accounts of this game and that day are that no one was anticipating it to be THAT cold, which probably proves how far weather forecasting has come since that day.
As Ray Scott famously said signing on for CBS-TV that day, ‘It is INDEED cold, in Green Bay, Wisconsin’. Then there was the wake up call a Cowboys player received at the hotel ‘It is -15 degrees, HAVE A NICE DAY!!!’
The stories remain literally frozen in time:
- The referee pulling out part of his lip along with his whistle (Christmas Story style)
- Fans reaching for the vodka in the parking lots during the pre game
- Boyd Dowler’s helmet/head bouncing violently on the ice like a basketball on the final drive
- Cowboys players huddled under a makeshift tarp with makeshift ski masks
- And, finally, a couple dozen fans suffering heart attacks in the stands.
If similar conditions were forecast for a playoff game today, this is another case where Roger Goodell might opt to take a rain check, or an ice check.
Finally, there was the climatic conclusion, the final play, 1-yard quarterback sneak, win or lose. As Coach Lombardi said afterwards, he wasn’t about to take his chances with overtime.
And with darkness closing in and the conditions getting even colder, who could blame him?
The 1967 NFL Championship continues to stand the test of time as the most brutal weather contest in any sport in which the stakes were highest.