Niners unfazed by playoff deep freeze

<P>Cold? What cold? </P> <P>Don't expect the 49ers to be intimidated by arctic temperatures in Green Bay when they meet the Packers on Sunday in an NFC wild-card showdown that will end with one of the NFL's best teams facing early elimination from the league's postseason party. </P>

The Niners know cold. They might not know it quite like the Packers, who know it pretty darn well. But two of San Francisco's central figures have a good idea what to expect when San Francisco invades Lambeau Field for what everybody anticipates will be the hottest game - figuratively speaking, of course - of wild-card weekend.

Niners coach Steve Mariucci has been there before. Literally as well as figuratively. So has Pro Bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia. "If it gets a little chilly, so what?" said Mariucci, Green Bay's quarterbacks coach from 1992-95 who grew up close to Green Bay in the Upper Peninsula region of Michigan. "There's a lot of things this team has accomplished this season. So this is going to be one more challenge. This team is anxious to go there. We've got a chance to be the first ones to beat them in under 30-degree weather."

Going to Green Bay for the playoffs is a daunting challenge, and winning there would be by far the most significant accomplishment of a San Francisco season that has been filled with them, for several reasons. The Packers never have lost a playoff game at Lambeau Field. They are 10-0 all-time in such situations. And Brett Favre, Green Bay's three-time MVP quarterback, is 29-0 in games where the temperature at kickoff was 34 degrees or below. Sunday's forecast in Green Bay calls for a high temperature of 30 degrees. And a low of 13.

"We know all of the statistics," Mariucci said. "We know that they haven't lost a playoff game there, OK? And we know that Favre hasn't lost a game under 34 degrees, or whatever that is. But they get just as cold as the opponent, OK? Let that fact be known."

Here's another fact to be known: San Francisco's quarterback is accustomed to playing in frosty conditions just as much as Green Bay's quarterback. And with similar results, albeit at a different level. Niners quarterback Jeff Garcia spent five seasons playing in the Canadian Football League with Calgary, where it has been known to get even colder than in Green Bay. Garcia passed for more than 16,000 yards in his final four seasons there, leading the Stampeders to a league championship in 1998, when he was named MVP of the Grey Cup.

"I wouldn't say it ever got overly extreme," Garcia said. "But for a California boy going into Canada, it was extreme to me. And eventually, I just learned how to deal with it and handle it. You just learn to block it out. Hey, both teams have to play in it. Both teams have to deal with it."

Most 49ers have experience in a cold-weather venue. So they expect to be ready for the conditions they'll face in Green Bay. "It's the playoffs and I know nobody in this locker room is going to be thinking about the weather," Niners cornerback Ahmed Plummer said. "There's too much at stake. Your adrenaline's going to be pumped, and everything is going to be going at that time. That won't even enter in our minds, the cold weather. It's about playing football, and we plan to play a great game." Said Mariucci, "It's a matter of playing ball, focusing on the football game. Not focusing on Old Man Winter. And this team will do that. I have no reason to believe we'll do anything but that."


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