Packers hot in the cold(can't use-Knight-Ridder)
Published: Saturday, January 4, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 4, 2003 at 1:00 a.m.
GREEN BAY, Wis. - One of the great streaks in pro football history will be on the line tonight when the 84th edition of the Green Bay Packers comes out of the tunnel at Lambeau Field to meet the Atlanta Falcons.
Since the National Football League first instituted a divisional system and began playoffs in 1933, the Packers have played 13 post-season games at home.
Not once have they lost.
They won one time at State Fair Park in Milwaukee, they won another time at County Stadium in Milwaukee and they've won 11 times at what now is often referred to as historic Lambeau Field.
The Ice Bowl in 1967, regarded by some as the most memorable game in pro football history, was decided when Bart Starr's quarterback sneak with 13 seconds left beat the Dallas Cowboys, 21-17, for the NFL championship.
That game, played with the thermometer at minus-13 and the wind chill index at minus-46, was as much an anomaly as it was unforgettable. The average temperature at kickoff for the Packers' 12 other home playoff games was 26 degrees.
In all, the 13 games were played with an average temperature of 23 and an average wind of 12 mph, hardly the stuff of legend.
The forecast for tonight calls for a high of 31 and a low of 16, with the best guess for kickoff in the upper 20s. There's a chance for snow flurries.
"What I really get concerned about is the wind," Packers President Bob Harlan said Thursday. "It's amazing. We've had some playoff games here in January that have been much milder than some of the games in late December."
All 66,110 tickets have been sold, but ticket brokers were doing a brisk business this week from fans either disinclined to sit in the cold on a Saturday night or deflated by the Packers' 42-17 loss last week to the New York Jets.
"Some people will cancel (Saturday) if they look out and it's miserable," Harlan said. "What I'm hearing is people are selling, so I think the people buying are going to go."
The last two playoff games in Green Bay were played in early January and field conditions were excellent, with the temperature each day at 28 degrees. In fact, since the Falcons were at Lambeau Field to lose a wild-card game in December 1995, only one of the Packers' five home playoff games was in weather colder than 28.
Still, the Packers won each of those five games by at least 10 points and had an average victory margin of 15.8. The Packers have an 8-2-2 record against the point spread in the 12 games in which oddsmakers established a line.
"What's the common denominator why we haven't been beaten at home over all those years?" said Lee Remmel, the team's executive director of public relations. "I think it's probably the weather conditions and the fan support. Our fans are pretty vocal."
In Atlanta, where the high temperature Thursday was 57 and the high for Friday will be 44, the Falcons claim to be undaunted by weather.
"You put an extra pair of socks on and wear warmer gloves," tackle Bob Whitfield said. "I got like a voodoo lady back home shaking chicken bones in the closet putting a warm aura around me."
Seven years ago, Eric Metcalf was a star receiver and kick returner for the Falcons when the team checked out the turf at Lambeau Field on the afternoon before their wild-card playoff game against the Packers. Today, he returns punts for the Packers.
"We weren't intimidated," Metcalf said. "We thought we were going to win. We were thinking it was going to be cold but when we got here we didn't think it was that cold. The problem for us, being a run-and-shoot team, was the field was muddy."
The Packers hope that a mushy track will take the edge away from Atlanta quarterback Mike Vick.
THE POSTSEASON OPENER
Edgerrin James and the Colts meet the Jets this afternoon.
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