Ravens face tough sledding on 'Frozen Tundra'

December 03, 2009|By Kevin Cowherd

If I could give one bit of advice to the Ravens as they prepare to face the Green Bay Packers on Monday night at Lambeau Field, it would be: Stay close to those heated benches when you're not in the game.

I say this because the temperature at game time is expected to be in the low 20s. There's also a good chance of snow.

And because this is Lambeau in December, you can pretty much count on hitting the bad-weather trifecta. That's right: The wind should be blowing, too.

Look, they don't call it "the Frozen Tundra" because people are slathering on Coppertone and wearing Hawaiian shirts.

Ravens center Matt Birk played at storied Lambeau many times in his 11 seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, the Packers' NFC North rival.

"Played in a lot of cold games there," he said Wednesday before the Ravens' practice at the Castle.

What was the coldest temperature you played in?

"Just really cold," Birk said. "Really, really cold. When you're really cold, it doesn't matter what the temperature says. You're just cold."

OK, fine. There's cold at Lambeau Field.

And there's really, really cold.

And then there's something even worse.

In the famous 1967 NFL championship game between the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys, for instance, the temperature at Lambeau was 13 degrees below zero. And the wind was whipping through the stadium like it was coming off the Bering Strait.

They called that game the "Ice Bowl." And when they made a highlight film of it, the deep-voiced narrator dramatically referred to the "frozen tundra of Lambeau Field." Which is how the place got its nickname.

Chris Berman, the ESPN anchor, likes to use that phrase in a sardonic way when talking about Packers home games. Except he's sitting in a nice, warm TV studio in Bristol, Conn.

Unlike Birk, he's not snapping a football and looking up to find a snarling 260-pound linebacker, clouds of steam billowing from his mouth, barreling into him with homicidal designs on Joe Flacco.

When you crash to the ground at Lambeau and it's as hard as cement, that's when "the Frozen Tundra" takes on a whole new meaning.

Tony Moll, the backup offensive lineman the Ravens signed in September, spent three seasons playing at Lambeau with the Packers.

He loved the fact that the Packers were owned by the citizens of Green Bay, the only community-owned team in all the major professional sports.

And he came to appreciate the tremendous pride the town took in Lambeau Field.

Partly because, well, there aren't a whole lot of other places in Green Bay that get your heart thumping.

"The people volunteer there on days when it snows!" Moll said, his voice full of wonder. "They come in and shovel the stadium out. Where else do people do that?

"The tradition that they have there, the numerous championships over the years ... what better place to play on a cold wintry day? Or on 'Monday Night Football'?"

It's hard to believe, but this Ravens-Packers game will be the first Monday night game played in December at Lambeau.

The 6-5 Ravens need a win. They might need a win in just about all their remaining five games to make the playoffs.

But it won't be easy at Lambeau, not in December, not on "Monday Night Football," not against a 7-4 Packers team with a crowd of 72,000 jacked up on brats and beer and howling like demons.

Since 2000, the Packers are 18-4 in regular-season games played in December and January at home, fourth best in the NFL.

And with their win over the San Francisco 49ers two weeks ago, the Packers have won 17 of their past 24 regular-season games at home.

No question there's a mystique associated with the place.

But the Ravens don't want to hear about mystique, not now, not when they practically have to run the table to keep playing in the postseason.

"Lambeau is Lambeau," Birk said, shaking his head. "Once you get out there and the ball is kicked off, it's no different from any other stadium."

Sure, Matt.

Keep telling yourself that Monday night.

I'd stay close to those heated benches, just the same.

Listen to Kevin Cowherd from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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