Originally created 01/13/02

Packers thrive in ice



Don't expect Ice Bowl II.

When the San Francisco 49ers play at Lambeau Field in Green Bay today (12:30 p.m., FOX-54), this will be the deepest into January the Packers have ever played a home game.

The teams awoke to a fresh snowfall Saturday that forced them to move their walkthroughs indoors. But in this wimpy winter, temperatures are expected only in the 20s, with some sunshine, by kickoff.

"Although, the forecast the night before the Ice Bowl was 20 to 25 degrees and we woke up Sunday morning and it was minus-13," said Lee Remell, the Packers' longtime public relations director.

In contrast, the Baltimore Ravens (10-6) will take on the Dolphins (11-5) in Miami (4 p.m., CBS-12) in considerably warmer conditions. This wild-card playoff encounter probably will be a low-scoring affair, given the two dominating defenses with a pair of turnover-prone, spasmodic offenses led by erratic quarterbacks.

In the 10 playoff games at Lambeau Field, the only one where it was below zero was the fabled Ice Bowl on Dec. 31, 1967, when Bart Starr knifed into the end zone in the closing seconds to give Green Bay a 21-17 victory over Dallas.

Nobody's counting on another deep freeze, but the Packers are anticipating the weather working to their advantage, as usual.

"We seem to handle it better than other teams," quarterback Brett Favre said.

Green Bay is 12-0 at home in the playoffs, and Favre has won all 30 times he's played at home when the temperature at kickoff was 34 or below.

"Every man loves a good fight and a challenge and I think it's fantastic that those statistics are in front of our guys," 49ers coach Steve Mariucci said. "That's such a motivator for us to accomplish that because nobody else has done it."

Besides, the 49ers have their own cold-weather quarterback in Jeff Garcia, who played five seasons in Canada.

Garcia isn't the least bit worried by the Packers' perfect past.

"That's history," Garcia said. "We're well aware of the great history of the Green Bay Packers. We're well aware of Brett Favre's outstanding record in the cold. We're aware of the things that are stacked up against us. But this is 2002 - this is a brand new year."

Garcia said he hasn't even been paying attention to the forecasts.

"We're all going to be wearing the same equipment and throwing and playing with the same football," Garcia said.

If Miami and Baltimore had taken better care of the ball this season, they would have won their divisions and earned a first-round bye. But the Ravens and Dolphins ranked near the bottom in the NFL with 36 and 38 turnovers, respectively.

"It's like looking in a mirror," Miami coach Dave Wannstedt said.

For the Ravens, turnovers have been the biggest change from last season, when they won the Super Bowl. In 2000 Baltimore led the NFL with a turnover differential of plus 23. This season the Ravens rank 23rd at minus eight.

The Dolphins were even worse, tying for 27th at minus 10. In the five games they lost, the Dolphins committed 20 turnovers and forced none.

"You can't afford to turn it over," tight end Hunter Goodwin said. "One time could cost you the game. We just have to be careful with the ball and not do anything too fancy."