The weather at Lambeau Field on Sunday was indeed frightful. Players can excel in the rain and show and cold, but the rain is the one element players hate more than all others.
Packers kicker Ryan Longwell said the wind was blowing at a 45-degree angle across the field. With gusts up to about 40 mph, every pass and kick was an adventure.
How much of an adventure? Lions quarterback Joey Harrington managed to complete five passes against a Packers defense that allowed 912 passing yards the last two weeks. Green Bay's Brett Favre, the undisputed king of bad-weather quarterbacking, needed 23 minutes just to complete one pass.
"Conditions were terrible. Just terrible," said Favre. "When you're signed to play here in Green Bay, you'd better get ready because the conditions late in the latter part of the year are not favorable for statistics."
After completing 3-of-15 passes for 28 yards in the first half, Favre found his bad-weather form in the second half. He completed 16-of-21 passes after intermission for 160 yards and a laser touchdown through the wind to Donald Driver in the third quarter. He guided the Packers to points on four of six second-half possessions.
"As I told (coach Mike Sherman) at the half, I felt better throwing the ball downfield with more velocity," said Favre. "Believe it or not, the downfield throws with some velocity were much easier throws than a 5-yard lob pass. The wind was a huge factor."
The wind was a huge factor in the kicking game. Green Bay's Ryan Longwell and Lions counterpart Jason Hanson were perfect on field goals but punters Bryan Barker of Green Bay and Nick Harris of Detroit were imperfect for much of the day.
Kicking into the wind was impossible. Kicking with the wind was no picnic, either — despite what Barker showed on his 64-yard fourth-quarter bomb — with the wind playing tricks on the 15-yard center snaps.
Harris' final punt of the day was pathetic and greatly helped the Packers score the winning points. Harris was hardly to blame, however, as the wind carried the snap about two steps to his left. Those steps brought him that much closer to the rush coming off the edge, forcing Harris to quickly unload the ball.
"The ball must have moved two feet from the time I dropped it until the time I kicked it," Harris said. "I'm just glad I caught it and made contact with it. It was just like Sean Landeta when he missed that ball in Denver. Remember that? I used to laugh at that, but now I know what it feels like. It was out of my hands; there was nothing I could do. I knew we needed a big kick, but I defer to the wind."
Longwell said the wind played the same tricks with the shorter center-to-holder snaps on field goals and extra points.
"From 8 yards away, which is what we're backed up for a field goal, the ball was moving almost a foot to 2 feet at times (from center to holder)," Longwell said.
With that in mind, Sherman said Longwell's chip-shot 23-yard winning field goal was anything but a sure thing.
"The way the wind was swirling, I don't think anything was real sure," Sherman said. "That was a tough wind to kick in. I don't even think (the game-winner) was a sure thing, other than the fact that the only sure thing was Ryan Longwell."
The wind made life miserable for the receivers, as well. Packers receivers dropped a handful of passes, including on back-to-back plays to start the third quarter. Antonio Chatman dropped a fourth-down pass late in the second quarter and Bubba Franks dropped a pass in the end zone that meant the difference between a 17-13 lead and a 13-13 tie. In the first quarter, Javon Walker awaited a pass along on the sideline, only to see it fall to the ground like it hit an invisible wall.
"There was a lot of movement on the ball," Chatman said. "The wind was blowing so hard. It didn't seem like Brett was throwing it as hard as he usually does."
The wind wasn't the only obstacle. A week of rain and snow left the Lambeau surface wet, and the frigid temperatures turned the wet field into an icy field. That was evident on the opening kickoff, when Longwell wound up falling on his butt.
"The wind was howling. The field was swampy," Longwell said. "The wind was blowing harder than I've ever seen it blow. It was extremely tough."