Patriots, Giants and fans survive ‘chill’ of victory
By COLIN FLY
AP Sports Writer
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — The NFL championship games started c-c-cold and ended with a frigid overtime thriller.
Lawrence Tynes kicked a 47-yard field goal to give the Giants a 23-20 victory over the Green Bay Packers in the frosty NFC title game Sunday night after the New England Patriots topped the San Diego Chargers 21-12 in the AFC game.
As soon as Tynes hit his kick, he bolted from the field.
“I just wanted to get out of the cold,” Tynes said.
At kickoff, the temperature was 1 below zero with a wind chill of 23 below. The temperature dropped slightly over the course of the evening in the second-coldest home game in Packers’ history, behind the Ice Bowl at 13 below, and the third-coldest game after the 1981 AFC championship game in Cincinnati, where it was nine below zero.
Afterward, Giants linebacker Antonio Pierce said he wasn’t sure when the smile would come off his face.
“It’s still cold out here, so I don’t know if it’s from being frozen or from being happy,” Pierce said. “But we’re going to Arizona, and it’s a lot warmer out there.”
While players and fans were cold, Packers officials said emergency personnel treated 12 to 15 fans for minor cold-related issues. A local group handed out 30,000 packets of hand warmers, while videographers had quilts and blankets over cameras in an effort to keep them functioning.The players said the weather didn’t bother them, even though Giants quarterback Eli Manning said it did affect them during warmups, forcing him to cut them short with receivers Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress.
“Me and Amani and Plaxico came out about two hours before the game to do our warmups,” Manning said. “We said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to go in.’ My left hand was numb, my receivers, they didn’t have any hand warmers, their hands were done.”
During the game, Manning ran in place at times and kept his hands buried in his jersey pouch in an effort to stay warm, and his teammates were huddled in heavy overcoats.
“On the sideline, they had the heaters, I stood by that the whole game,” said Manning, who went 21-for-40 for 254 yards. “I never took my helmet off, I just stood by the heaters, stayed warm, had big gloves around my hands to keep my hands warm, that was the most important thing.”
It was 23 degrees at kickoff of the AFC championship game in Foxborough, Mass., the same temperature as North Pole, Alaska. Though much warmer than Green Bay, it was the lowest temperature for any of the three AFC championship games played in Foxborough over the years. The wind chill was 9.
No matter the temperature in Green Bay, fans were determined to have a good time, taking what little snow wasn’t shoveled out before the game to make snow balls.
Steve Redlin said he bought a pair of tickets for $1,040 off an online site. Wearing an authentic Brett Favre jersey, he said he dressed with four layers on the bottom and six layers on top to watch his favorite player.
“I’m like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man,” he said.
Herb Kochon, a lifelong Packers fan from Atlantic Highlands, N.J., attended his first game at Lambeau Field.
“I’ve always been a Packer fan. When I was younger, the Packers were the team in the 1960s, TV just started getting popular and whenever I’d turn it on, the Packers were playing,” said Kochon, decked out in a Ray Nitschke jersey and Miller Lite lounge pants. “I’m like a little kid on Christmas Eve.”
Despite below-zero temperatures, Kochon and thousands of other fans continued the time-honored tradition at Lambeau Field’s tailgates — beers, brats and cheese.
Some, however, were finding conditions somewhat daunting. Several fans couldn’t quite get beer out of their bottles because they were frozen.
Many players in the AFC championship game wore short sleeves and several, including linemen, wore gloves. In Green Bay, Packers’ offensive linemen and some defensive linemen have a rule that they do not wear sleeves in any weather.
About half the players there on both teams went sleeveless.
Bart Starr, the Packers’ quarterback during the Ice Bowl game against the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 31, 1967, where one fan died of exposure, said it’s a mental adjustment to a cold game. The temperature then was a record 13 below with a wind chill of minus 46.
“I don’t want this to sound trite, because it’s not — it’s attitude,” Starr said. “It’s a mental thing and you, an individual, regardless of what’s coached to you, you have to put it out of your mind and focus on what the purpose and what your objectives are. You have to push it away.”
Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw, who scored a touchdown, said he did just that, not noticing the conditions at all.
“It only lasted for three hours, but this championship lasts for a lifetime,” he said.
Published in The Messenger 1.21.08