Giants vs. Packers Game Is Third Coldest on Record

It's not the first time extreme cold has made for memorable football games.

ByABC News via via logo

Jan. 21, 2008 — -- They came, they saw and they shivered during the NFC playoff game Sunday on the icy tundra that was Lambeau Field.

Most fans bundled up, others relied on booze to keep warm. Some hearty female fans, though, braved minus 1 degree temperatures (and a minus 32 wind chill) in bikinis — at least long enough to get a shot on national TV. And many of the macho players for some inexplicable reason wore short-sleeve jerseys.

The mercury fell — and the misery rose — with each tick of the game clock. Faces got redder, plays got sloppier and the beer froze into beer-cicles.

The chills almost matched the thrills of the New York Giants' 23-20 overtime upset of the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau, sending the Giants to the Super Bow in Arizona.

But it wasn't the coldest game in NFL history, or even the second coldest game on record.

The dubious distinction of coldest NFL game ever played belongs to the so-called "Ice Bowl," the Dec. 31, 1967 NFL Championship game between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys, when the temperature was minus 13 with a wind chill of minus 43. That was also played at Lambeau Field.

The next two coldest games, according to the NFL Record Book, were the Jan. 10, 1982 AFC championship game at Cincinnati's Riverfront Stadium between the Bengals and the San Diego Chargers, when the temperature was minus 9 with a wind chill of minus 59.

Sunday's game just edged out the Jan. 15, 1994 AFC divisional game between the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Raiders, when the temperature at Rich Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., was zero, with a wind chill of minus 32.

Those bulky football pads may look big but they're not much protection against freezing winds and frostbite. The cold can make those carefully maneuvered plays a lot more difficult to carry out.

"Oh yeah, it hurts a lot more to be tackled," said former NFL quarterback and ESPN analyst Sean Salisbury. "Taking those hits, it feels like you're getting hit by four guys, not just one when it's that cold."

The Packers are no strangers to harsh winter games. In the legendary Ice Bowl, the hostile weather helped them best the Cowboys, 21-17. Later, Dallas players said quarterback Don Meredith's face was paralyzed by the cold, which affected his play calls.

"There was frostbite. There was frosted lung. There were toes that were frosted," said former Packers guard Jerry Kramer.

Similarly, the Bengals and the Chargers shivered through the "Freezer Bowl" in 1982.

The temperature that day was minus 9 degrees, but the wind chill made it feel like it was 59 degrees below zero. Players had frostbite and fans froze in the stands, but no one cared.

"What difference does that make? You're a football player and you play in whatever conditions," said former Packers player Forrest Gregg, who played in the legendary matchup. "There's something about going to those games that people love."

Over the years, technology has made it slightly easier to endure the extreme cold. There are special heaters, insulation technology and foot warmers to help the players bear the discomfort. Still, says professor James Marker, a sports psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, "as the temperature drops, their muscle function can actually decrease. The nerve conduction velocity decreases; it can actually get to zero."

During practice, some coaches have even tried to simulate possible conditions by using balls dipped in buckets of ice water.

For quarterbacks, cold weather brings an important question: glove or no glove? Packers quarterback Brett Favre chose the no-glove option Sunday. "The weather is not a factor," he said before the game.

Maybe Favre didn't give the cold enough credit.

ABC's Eric Horng and Hanna Siegel contributed to this report.

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