GREEN BAY—Once upon a time, this would’ve been a head-to-head clash between the teams of snow. They were the NFL’s northernmost franchises and they were each the symbols of cold-weather football.
In Minnesota, the Vikings played at Metropolitan Stadium, an ugly place with a prairie-like feel to it that became a skating rink late in the season. The Vikings’ coach, Bud “Don’t Call Me Lou” Grant deprived his players of any form of sideline heating equipment. Grant demanded cold-weather courage from his players, and the Vikings of “Purple People Eaters” fame were nearly invincible on their frozen prairie.
The Packers were defined, of course, by the “Ice Bowl,” the ultimate cold-weather game.
This Saturday, the Vikings and Packers will clash on the “frozen tundra” of Lambeau Field, but only one of those teams has maintained its cold-weather image. The Vikings have long since abandoned Metropolitan Stadium for the cozy confines of the Metrodome, where sideline heaters aren’t necessary and the Vikings have lost a major chunk of their identity.
The Vikings haven’t won a game outdoors this season and some people would say they’ll be playing their first defining cold-weather game since the days of Metropolitan Stadium, and that’s the Packers’ greatest advantage for this game.
Lambeau Field must be a distinct home field advantage for the Packers on Saturday, when the temperature will dip into the icy teens and the sideline heaters will beckon to the weak-willed. “Come to me,” the heater will say. “I will give you comfort.”
The New York Giants made Lambeau’s cold its friend the last two times they played here in January. Those games are each a bitter memory for Packers fans, and they must be erased by the Packers on Saturday night, against a dome team that’s quarterbacked by someone from Florida State.
At stake on Saturday is a major chunk of the Packers’ image.
Here are 10 things the Packers must do to beat the Vikings.
1. Support Aaron Rodgers—He threw for 365 yards and four touchdowns and lost. That must not happen again.
2. Play 12 in the box—Adrian Peterson has rushed for 409 yards and a 7.4 yards per carry average in two games against the Packers. That must not happen again, either.
3. Win the battle of the hitting—The team that does that will be the team that won’t need sideline heaters.
4. Penetrate and disrupt—That’s how you stop a great back, by getting to him before he gets to you.
5. Catch the ball—Aaron Rodgers will put it on his receivers’ hands, just as he did in the playoff loss to the Giants. He can’t catch it for them.
6. Block Jared Allen—He got a sack, a tackle for a loss and a couple of hurries last Sunday, but he wasn’t allowed to be the disruptive factor he can be.
7. Give it to the hot back—DuJuan Harris averaged 5.0 yards per carry in the most recent game. That’s a nice diversion for a team that wants to throw the ball.
8. Make those kicks—Mason Crosby was two-for-two in Minnesota. He likely regained his coach’s confidence and will be given opportunities to reward it this Saturday.
9. Make Ponder be ‘The Man’—Playoff games are about quarterbacks. Make sure the one with the higher passer rating wins.
10. Excite the fans—This will be an energized Packers crowd ready to give its team the kind of home field advantage the Vikings enjoyed in the Metrodome. Give the crowd reason to cheer. Additional coverage - Jan. 3