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Unfrozen tundra does in Packers/Paul Peterson

January 18, 2012
By Paul Peterson - For the Gazette , The Daily Mining Gazette

Just when the Green Bay Packers needed a typical mid-January winter day, they got a balmy late fall afternoon in the NFL playoffs Sunday.

And while that didn't totally account for their meltdown against the suddenly potent New York Giants, the unfrozen tundra at Lambeau Field certainly had something to do with it.

Green Bay players - and their fans - have always prided themselves on the team being able to perform in the most inclement winter weather imaginable.

Take the famous "Ice Bowl" game against the Dallas Cowboys in late December of 1967. The temperature was a numbing 11-below zero at game time that winter day and wind chills fell to well below a minus 25 before it was over.

Yet, the Packers were able to come back from a fourth quarter deficit behind quarterback Bart Starr and a theretofore unknown running back by the name of Chuck Mercein.

Mercein, who attended Yale University, made one big play after another on the final Green Bay drive. His 20 yards rushing and 22 more in pass receptions helped set up Starr's game-winning quarterback sneak (which has probably aired more than any play in league history).

A Packer backer recently asked me how I could recall the details of that game so vividly. Easy, I replied. I bet the better part of a paycheck on the Cowboys that day ... and ended up dining on what is known today as a Ramen Pride soup diet for the next week. That's the stuff that costs around 20 cents a package.

But getting back to the bad weather that Green Bay has always seemed to thrive on.

Former Packers' quarterback Brett Favre almost always had big games in bad weather. At one time, I think he was something like 33-1 in games when the temperature was below freezing.

But something funny has happened in recent years on the Frozen Tundra. After going 19-1 in playoff games at Lambeau Field, the Packers now have last four of their last six playoff games at home.

Now, I privately believed all along that this year's team wasn't quite as good as their season record of 15-1.

Sure, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was having a dream season, and his corps of receivers was as fine as any that has been in the NFL in many years.

But the Green Bay defense had more holes in it than a slab of Door County swiss cheese.

The secondary was absolutely porous in allowing more yards than any other in league history.

And while no one was saying it aloud, the Packers schedule was much softer than you would expect for a reigning Super Bowl champion. Playing St. Louis, Carolina, Oakland and Denver (before Tebow-mania) is not exactly taxing. Throw in the suddenly incompetent Minnesota Vikings and GB had a slate full of tomato cans.

There's little doubt the Packers will bounce back next season and again be the team to beat in the NFC North.

But they will find a rejuventated Detroit team as their major competition for years to come.

Sports Illustrated NFL expert Don Banks wrote not long ago that the Lions have roster full of dynamic, young playmakers. Enough to make them contenders for the next decade.

With the Vikings in total disarray and the Chicago Bears aging quickly, it will be Detroit-Green Bay games that dominate the headlines. Just as it was back in the 1960s.

Just as long as they don't bring back Chuck Mercein for an encore ...



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