(Lambeau Field was COLD that night. Photo by Maxx Wolfson, Getty Images)
The 2007 NFC Championship Game between the Packers and Giants had all the qualities of being nickname-worthy: a plethora of great plays, even more bone-headed mistakes, a game-winning field goal, a below-zero temperature, and just the third overtime ever in a championship game. And in the end, it was the player who failed more than anyone else who wound up being the hero.
The game kicked off with the frigid temperature at -1 degrees, the wind chill at -23 degrees. It was the third coldest game in the history of the NFL, a few notches warmer than the original Ice Bowl and the Freezer Bowl. Nobody looked worse under the conditions than Giants coach Tom Coughlin, whose face was so purple that it appeared his skin simply froze away.
Despite the freezing weather, both teams were somehow able to find some offense.
(Giants coach Tom Coughlin. Photo by Jamie Squire, Getty Images)
The Packers were very fortunate to come away with touchdowns in the second and third quarters. The first one was a twenty-yard pass to Donald Driver that, thanks to poor coverage from CB Corey Webster, turned into a 90-yard touchdown, the longest play in Green Bay's postseason history. Their second TD occurred because the Giants' Sam Madison was called for unnecessary roughness after New York stopped the Pack on third down. That penalty gave Green Bay a first down, which Brett Favre converted to a touchdown.
The Packers offense was anemic all game. Favre, who had rightfully earned the reputation as one of the game's best cold-weather quarterbacks, was nonexistent and threw for only 21 yards in the second half. Running back Ryan Grant, who was heavily hyped following his 201-yard game against the Seahawks the week before, was just as invisible -- running for only 29 yards.
On the Giants' side, Eli Manning eluded making costly mistakes, which had been his major criticism throughout his career. For the third straight playoff game, Eli did not throw an interception. Peyton Manning chose not to attend in person, fearing that he would jinx his brother. Plaxico Burress was nearly perfect and dominated cornerback Al Harris, who had the task of covering Burress by himself. Burress racked up 11 catches and 154 yards, good for almost half of his team's offense.
After a Packers field goal early in the 4th quarter, the score was tied 20-20. Placekicker Lawrence Tynes was set up with a 43-yard field goal on the Giants' next possession; Tynes booted it wide left. New York got the ball back and milked the clock until only four seconds remained in regulation. Tynes now looked at 36-yarder to go to the Super Bowl. Center Jay Alford snapped the ball high, but holder Jeff Feagles managed to control it. Tynes was nevertheless thrown off by the high snap; for the second time in a row, his kick was booted left of the goalpost.
"I was thinking what would it be like to live in Green Bay," Tynes later said. Coughlin was visibly disgusted with his kicker (he had already chewed him out for missing the first time). Afterwards, Tynes quietly sat on the bench, speaking to no one while waiting for another chance.
(Corey Webster's huge INT. Photo by Jonathan Ferrey, Getty Images)
Green Bay won the coin toss and began overtime with the ball. The Packers' drive would last only two plays. Corey Webster redeemed his previously-allowed touchdown by intercepting a pass to Driver, then running it back to the Green Bay 34. The temperature was now -4 degrees. The Lambeau faithful gave a weak rendition of their "Go Pack Go" chant. It was the interception, not the cold, that had everyone uneasy.
Yet the Giants did little to help themselves out. Three plays later, New York had only advanced the ball five yards. The projected field goal distance was 47 yards. No player had ever made a postseason field goal longer than 40 yards at Lambeau Field, and Tynes certainly didn't appear to be the one to do it. Tom Coughlin didn't know whether to ride with the kicker or go for it on fourth down. Before he could make up his mind, Tynes had already run onto the field.
"I looked right at him, and when I saw him out there, it made a very strong impression," Coughlin said. "I knew he was feeling very confident. I was looking for a sign, and that was it."
The rest of the field goal unit raced onto the field. This time the snap was good, the hold was good, and the kick went straight down the center.
(Tynes hits his game-winner. Photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Green Bay's improbable year came to a stark end. After three consecutive losing seasons, they had posted the best record in the NFC, thanks to a more conservative approach from Brett Favre. Yet in the end, it was a typical reckless pass from Favre that cost them the season.
New York's win was their tenth consecutive road victory, an NFL record. They took to their toughest challenge of the year two weeks later in the Super Bowl, and astounded the sports world by knocking off the undefeated New England Patriots.
Two months after the NFC Championship Game, Brett Favre created headlines by announcing his retirement. The Packer legend was done playing football, or at least it appeared that way...