GREEN BAY, Wis - The Cleveland Browns had to know they were in for a long afternoon as they watched the snow and the mercury fall Sunday at Lambeau Field.
The reason - Green Bay Packers' quarterback Brett Favre is simply unbeatable in the snow and bitter cold of his home stadium.
Favre led the Packers to a 30-7 victory over the Browns, throwing three touchdown passes in improving his record to 29-0 in sub 34-degree weather.
The 11-year veteran put on a clinic on how to play quarterback in cold weather, completing each of his first eight passes, including touchdown throws of 1 and 4 yards to tight end Bubba Franks in the first quarter.
The performance helped clinch a spot in the playoffs for the Packers (10-4) while handing the Browns (6-8) their fourth consecutive loss.
"(Favre) is as good as I remembered," said Browns coach Butch Davis, who as a defensive coordinator for the Cowboys in the early 90's was charged with designing schemes to stop Favre during some classic games with the Packers.
While Favre was not spectacular in completing 18-of-28 passes for 139 yards, he was efficient, and according to his Browns' counterpart "that's just what you want to do when you are playing in the cold and the snow."
"I learned something from this game," said Couch, who had never played a game in the snow prior to Sunday. "(Favre) does a great job in this kind of weather. He knows when not to make certain throws. He knows there are days when you can get in trouble throwing some deep routes."
Favre's longest completion of the day was a 16-yard touchdown pass to running back Dorsey Levens, who made a diving catch in the end zone early in the fourth quarter to close the scoring.
"That's why (Favre) is headed to Canton," said Browns linebacker Jamir Miller. "He played his game. He didn't try to force any bad passes down the field. He just took what we gave them."
Couch, however, got into trouble taking chances down field, throwing two of his three interceptions while trying to hit tight end O.J. Santiago deep down the middle.
"Those are the kinds of plays where if you throw it perfect, you look great," said Couch, who completed 22-of-33 passes for 203 yards and one touchdown. "If you don't throw it perfect, it's a dangerous throw."
Packers' safety Bhawoh Jue intercepted Couch on just his second throw of the first quarter after a long pass for Santiago bounced off the helmet of linebacker Bernardo Harris at the Packers' 19-yard line. The pick set the stage for a discouraging afternoon for Couch and the Browns offense.
In what Davis called "the best success our offense has had in six or seven weeks," the Browns managed 337 net yards, including 131 on 21 rushing attempts by Jamel White - the best performance by a Browns' back since Kevin Mack ran for 133 yards vs. the Bengals in 1987.
The effort was wasted by five turnovers in Packers' territory.
"That is extrordinarily difficult (to overcome) at any level," said Davis. "You just can't win football games if you turn the ball over."
The Packers took a comfortable 23-7 lead into the half. If not for two key second-quarter turnovers, the score could have been much closer.
The most painful of the miscues came late in the first half when Packers' cornerback Tyrone Williams intercepted a poorly thrown pass by Couch near the sideline, then raced 69 yards for a touchdown. The interception followed a perfectly-executed 16-yard slant from Couch to Kevin Johnson at the Packers' 31. With less than a minute left in the half, the Browns were poised to cut into the Packers' 16-7 lead.
"That's the way the day was for us," said Johnson. "We did some good things out there, but they weren't enough. We made some plays but then we didn't protect the football."
The Browns missed another prime scoring opportunity earlier in the second quarter when Andre King lost a fumble at the Packers' 13-yard line after catching a 21-yard pass.
"If we didn't turn the ball over, we have a chance to go into halftime with maybe a 16-14 ballgame," said Davis.
Even without the turnovers, Davis said the Browns would have had a difficult time pulling off a win against the playoff-bound Packers.
"We needed to play better defensively for us to have a shot," said Davis. "They had some success running the football. Our defense had to go back out after a lot of sudden-change situations where they get a 3-and-out or a 5-and-out, then all of a sudden three plays later they are back on the field."
The Packers' rushed for 222 yards, including 150 yards on 21 carries by Ahman Green.
"We knew they would come out and run hard with Green, especially after he had only 9-yards last week (in a loss to) the Titans," said cornerback Daylon McCutcheon. "We knew what we had to do. We knew we had to wrap up (Green) ... and we knew that if we were going to come in here and beat these guys, we had to create turnovers. That's what has made us a good defense."
The Browns only benefited from one turnover - a fumble by Favre on a blown handoff exchange with Levens in the fourth quarter. That would be Favre's only mistake of the afternoon.
Favre led the Packers to touchdowns on the Packers' first two possessions, capping both drives with short scoring throws to Franks.
Jamel White scored the Browns' only touchdown, catching a 3-yard shovel pass from Couch with 7:08 left in the second quarter, cutting the Packers' lead to 16-7. White set up that score with a 51-yard run.
Instead of focusing on the turnovers, the Browns chose to look at the performance of White and the Browns' offense as a positive step in the building process.
"We took some steps forward, not only for this season, but next season," said Davis. "We developed some consistency and continuity in moving the ball."
The "frozen tundra" of Green Bay's Lambeau Field didn't seem to bother Jamel White.
White gave the Browns' struggling running game a lift, stepping in for the injured James Jackson, and running for 131 yards on 21 carries.
The second-year back added nine catches for 85 yards, and scored the Browns' only touchdown on a 3-yard shovel pass from Tim Couch in the second quarter. He set up that score with a 51-yard scamper down the left sideline - the longest run from scrimmage by a Brown since 1993. His 131 rushing yards was the most by a Browns' back in 14 years.
With White running wild, Davis quickly abandoned his plan to alternate White and rookie Ben Gay in the Browns' backfield.
"Once it became apparent that (White) was going to have a lot of success, there wasn't much choice of making a change," said Davis.
"Jamel White had an outstanding night. He is a guy who has great acceleration I think his running style certainly fits playing in sloppy, nasty (conditions). I think some guys are great mudders. He has short, choppy, quick steps, and his ability to make cuts gave him an advantage over some of the people who were trying to tackle him."
Browns' offensive coordinator Bruce Arians said he could see White's big day coming.
"He had a heck of a ballgame, running, passing, pass blocking, and he prepared himself with a good week of practice," said Arians. "We talked a lot about this being the type of track where you make one cut and head north. You get (the defender) off balance, and you can make plays."
The Browns four-game losing streak has coincided with a statistical nosedive by Tim Couch.
In those four games, Couch has thrown two touchdowns and eight interceptions. In the last six games, the third-year quarterback has thrown three touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Even with those alarming numbers, the Browns' coaches don't seem concerned.
"It's a growing experience," said offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. "When you get behind, you have a tendency to try to get it up the field ... All young quarterbacks have to learn to quit forcing it at times.
"He wants to win and he wants to make plays. I never want to stop him from being aggressive, and he can make the throws. I want him to keep firing.
Arians doesn't have to worry. Couch is determined to stay aggressive.
"Obviously I don't like throwing interceptions," said Couch. "Some of the interceptions have been on tipped balls, and some of them are on me. I am not going to quit being aggressive, though. I'm going to continue to go out and sling the ball downfield."
After throwing three interceptions in the loss to the Packers, Couch was remarkably upbeat.
"This hurts right now because obviously you don't want to turn the ball over," said Couch. "But tomorrow I'll come back like this never happened. I am happy with the way we moved the ball. I want us to execute like this, except take away the turnovers. If you take away the turnovers in this game, then we are in the battle and it comes down to the fourth quarter."