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home : opinion : news views April 18, 2015

1/4/2014 1:05:00 AM
Are We Headed For Another Ice Bowl?
Gary Gerard
Times-Union General Manager

Readers of this column over the years may recall that I am a lifelong fan of the Green Bay Packers.
So imagine my glee this past Sunday when Aaron Rodgers tossed a last-minute 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb to beat those mangy Chicago Bears.
In doing so, the Packers clinched their third consecutive NFC North divisional title. This also gave them homefield advantage in this Sunday’s wild card playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers.
See, teams that win their division get home field advantage over wild card teams like the 49ers, even though the 49ers have a better record.
The 49ers were 12-4 in the NFC West, which was only good enough for second place behind the 13-3 division-winning Seattle Seahawks. But that 12-4 record was good enough to get them in the playoffs as a wild-card team.
But the division-winning Packers, with a record of 8-7-1 get homefield advantage, which brings me around to the point of this column.
We very well could be headed for another Ice Bowl here, sports fans.
For the uninitiated, the Ice Bowl is the most storied game in the history of professional football. Some would say it was the greatest NFL game ever played.
It was the 1967 National Football League Championship Game between the Packers and the warm-weather Dallas Cowboys. It took place at Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Dec. 31, 1967.
Green Bay won the game and went on to win Super Bowl II against the American Football League champion Oakland Raiders, 33 to 14.
The Ice Bowl game was a rematch of the 1966 NFL title game. The Packers won consecutive NFL titles in 1965 and 1966 and they won Super Bowl I against the AFL champ Kansas City Chiefs, 33-14.
The Ice Bowl pitted future Hall of Fame coaches Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry against each other.
The game went down in the anals of football history because of its dramatic conclusion and the adverse conditions in which it was played.
The game-time temperature at Lambeau Field that fateful day was -15 degrees, with a wind chill estimated at -48 degrees.
The field’s turf-heating system failed before the game. When the tarp was removed, moisture on the field froze, creating an icy surface that got worse as more of the field fell into shadows as the game wore on.
By the end of the game, the temperature had dropped to -20.
The University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse marching band canceled its performance because woodwind instruments froze and broke, and brass players lips were becoming stuck to their mouthpieces.
One referee’s whistle stuck to his lower lip as he blew it to signify the start of play. He ripped the whistle free and his lip bled, but the blood didn’t clot – it literally froze on his lip.
After that, all the other refs eschewed use of whistles altogether, calling the game with voice and hand commands.
In their last offensive drive, the Packers took over possession with 4:50 left in the game down 17-14. Quarterback Bart Starr led his team down the field with three key completions of 13, 12 and 19 yards. The 19-yarder gave the Packers a first down on the Cowboy 11.
An 8-yard run took the Packers to the Cowboys 3-yard line. A Donny Anderson run to the 1-yard line made it first and goal from the 1.
Twice more Anderson tried to score, both times slipping on the ice and coming up short.
On third-and-goal at the Dallas 2-foot line with 16 seconds remaining, Starr called the Packers' final timeout to confer with Lombardi.
On the way to the sidelines, Starr asked right guard Jerry Kramer if he could get enough traction on the field to block and Kramer said yes.
While a pass might have been a better option, stopping the clock if incomplete, Starr preferred the quarterback sneak. With no timeouts left and only 16 second remaining, it was risky. If it failed, the Packers likely would not get off another play and Dallas would win the game.
Legend has it that on the sidelines Lombardi told Starr:  “Run it, and let's get the hell out of here!”
Starr called the play, crossed the goal line behind Kramer’s block, and the Packers won the game, 21-17.
After the game, a number of players on both teams suffered from frostbite and players on both teams wept openly in their locker rooms.
Las Vegas odds-makers of the day had the Packers as a 6.5-point favorite in the Ice Bowl.
The Packers take the field as 2.5-point underdogs Sunday against the 49ers.
With a 4:40 p.m. EDT kickoff on Sunday, the National Weather Service has issued an advisory for “Arctic outbreak” with “near record temperatures and dangerously cold wind chills.”
The forecast calls for a high of -5 degrees and a low of -20 degrees.
The Packers are a bit more used to playing in cold than the 49ers, to be sure. But nobody’s used to playing in that kind of cold.
At least this time around, the turf heaters will be working and the players will be suited up with Under Armour® and all manner of high-tech base layers under their uniforms.
If we wind up having another Ice Bowl in Green Bay, I hope the end result is the same.
Go Pack!





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