The final count was 19,856. That's how many fans braved the worst winter storm in any Green Bay December to sit through the Packers' shutout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Over 36,000 fans decided it would be better to watch on television rather than risk life and limb. For those who did show up, their enthusiasm was contagious. Coach Forrest Gregg paid them a big compliment after the game.
"Those guys that were there today were true fans and true Packer backers. I think they sort of like this weather. It was amazing and I thought there were 60,000 people out there the way they were yelling. You see all those orange suits out there and they got back just in time form deer hunting. Those are our type of people."
The final attendance figure was the lowest ever for Lambeau Field, which opened in 1957 with a capacity of a little over 32,000. Longtime press box observers like Clem Collard and Packer Report columnist Art Daley readily agreed that this was was the worst weather ever for a Packer home game. Collard, who handles press box operations, has seen every Packer home game since 1919. He says only the 1965 NFL championship between the Packers and the Cleveland Browns could compare. That game was played on Jan. 2, 1966, with almost 4 inches of snow on the ground. The Packers won that contest 23-12 for their seventh NFL title.
Most remember the 1967 Ice Bowl game in which the temperature was somewhere between 15 and 20 below zero. But there was no snow on the field.
It would be remiss not to say that the weather affected the game and the Buccaneers. They practiced all week in 80-degree temperatures. The Packers, while working out in much colder temperatures, did not practice in blizzard conditions. So, while Green Bay may have enjoyed a psychological advantage, they did not have a field benefit. Both squads had to fight through the snow.
Although it maybe have looked like the frozen tundra of the north, most Packers said the cold was not that big a factor. Offensive tackle Greg Koch said, "The biggest factor was the snow buildup. I think the wind blowing around made it tough for our receivers. The cold really wasn't that big a factor."
For everyone who grew up in a winter climate playing in the snow always seemed like a lot of fun. Safety Mark Murphy remembered from his Ohio childhood days. "It was fun, I'm telling ya. It was real nasty in the third and fourth quarters. I thought it was worse than Denver last year. The wind was blowing and it was hard to see."
Everyone was amazed by Lynn Dickey's performance. In the Denver game, he overcame the 15 inches of snow that had fallen to pass for over 300 yards. For this matchup, Dickey finished with 299 yards.
"You just gotta accept it. I just try and grab it and throw it the best I can. When you don't throw it real well to begin with, everyone else comes down to my level. I can't explain it."
Tight end Paul Coffman found the conditions a blessing and a curse, he said. "It's pretty fun. The snow is a little deep. You just couldn't get going. One step you might be ankle deep and the next step knee deep."
Gregg has played and coached in some cold and snowy games, but this one outdid them all. "It was unusual weather. We thought it might be that way, listening to the weatherman. But sometimes weatherman are wrong like football coaches," he said with a smile.
"I just hope it's a little worse than this next week for Miami."
Koch picked up on that theme in the locker room, he said. "I heard more than one Buccaneer complain about coming in from that type of weather into this type of weather. So, hopefully Miami will have the same kind of problem."
Koch went on to pay tribute to his quarterback, who seems to thrive in the snow. "You really have to hand it to Lynn Dickey. He's done it two years in a row. He had a great game throwing the ball against Denver in similar conditions. There's mud horses and this guy can throw in any kind of weather.
Rest assured, the Packers and most of their fans will hope it's cold when Don Shula's Dolphins come to town next Sunday. But deep down inside, they would prefer that Mother Nature take it easy on the snow. That's one record most will hope is never repeated.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.