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Don't expect Ice Bowl II for Packers-49ers

Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2002

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Don't expect Ice Bowl II.

When the San Francisco 49ers play at Lambeau Field on Sunday, this will be the deepest into January the Green Bay Packers have ever played a home game.

The teams awoke to a fresh snowfall Saturday that forced them to move their walkthroughs indoors. But in this wimpy winter, temperatures are expected only in the 20s, with some sunshine, by kickoff.

''Although, the forecast the night before the Ice Bowl was 20 to 25 degrees and we woke up Sunday morning and it was minus-13,'' said Lee Remell, the Packers' longtime public relations director.

Nobody's counting on another deep freeze, but the Packers are anticipating the weather working to their advantage, as usual.

''We seem to handle it better than other teams,'' quarterback Brett Favre said.

Green Bay is 12-0 at home in the playoffs, and Favre has won all 30 times he's played at home when the temperature at kickoff was 34 or below.

''Every man loves a good fight and a challenge and I think it's fantastic that those statistics are in front of our guys,'' 49ers coach Steve Mariucci said. ''That's such a motivator for us to accomplish that because nobody else has done it.''

Besides, the 49ers have their own cold-weather quarterback in Jeff Garcia, who played five seasons in Canada.

Garcia isn't the least bit worried by the Packers' perfect past.

''That's history,'' Garcia said. ''We're well aware of the great history of the Green Bay Packers. We're well aware of Brett Favre's outstanding record in the cold. We're aware of the things that are stacked up against us. But this is 2002 -- this is a brand new year.''

Garcia said he hasn't even been paying attention to the forecasts.

''We're all going to be wearing the same equipment and throwing and playing with the same football,'' Garcia said.

Not quite.

Garcia has been practicing with skintight gloves that he hopes to use Sunday to keep his hands warm. Favre doesn't bother.

And the Packers' linemen don't bother wearing long sleeve thermals, either. Coach Mike Sherman won't bundle up because he doesn't think it's right to put on a stocking cap and a winter coat and then tell his team not to let the weather bother them.

Still, the Packers would have preferred colder conditions.

''The way the weather has been up here this winter, it might be almost picture perfect for them,'' Packers running back Ahman Green said.

Mariucci doesn't think the 49ers are catching a break.

''I swear, it doesn't matter. We're going to play this game early in the morning, chilly weather, in Lambeau in front of a big-time crowd and it just can't matter to us,'' said Mariucci, a former Packers assistant.

''I've seen too many teams come in there and worry about what they're wearing and how fast they can get off the field between series to warm up and lose.''

Still, the Packers are accustomed to the cold.

''If there's one place that most people would rather not play a playoff game it would be this stadium,'' Sherman said.

Defensive end Vonnie Holliday said he's not a big bad weather fan, ''but I know across the field, those guys hate it even more than I do.''

Favre said he can see it in opponents' faces, reddened by the cold.

''You hear the talk that we have never lost a playoff game here, that weighs on the opposing team,'' Favre said. ''You start believing, 'Well, we can't win here.' We all know that is not true, but our guys start believing that we can't be beat.

''I don't wake up Sunday morning and say, 'Uh-oh, 32 degrees. Somebody is in trouble,''' Favre said. ''But other people do, I guess.''

Truth be told, the weather hasn't been that bad here most of the time.

In the 10 playoff games at Lambeau Field, the only one where it was below zero was the fabled Ice Bowl on Dec. 31, 1967, when Bart Starr knifed into the end zone in the closing seconds to give Green Bay a 21-17 victory over Dallas.

The only other time it was below 20 degrees at kickoff was the NFC championship on Jan. 12, 1997, when it was 3 degrees and the Packers beat Carolina 30-13.

All the other games have ranged from 24 degrees to 37 degrees, and the average temperature was a balmy 25.

Still, the Packers sense an advantage.

''It's Lambeau Field,'' Holliday said. ''It's a tough place to play. I don't care who you are, when you come in here. I don't think it has lost its mystique. So, we have all that working, the pride, the tradition, the rich history, all on our side.''



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