'I was just numb': An oral history of the epic 2007 NFC Championship Game
- Frozen extremities, chicken broth at halftime, Favre's farewell and a finish for the ages: Before the Giants and Packers meet again in a win-or-go-home setting, a look back at the 2007 NFC Championship Game through the eyes of the players who tried not to freeze during it.
On Jan. 20, 2008, the Packers hosted the Giants at Lambeau Field for the NFC Championship Game, playing for the right to face the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. When the two teams took the field that Sunday, no one knew that the game would be Favre’s last as a Packer, or that New York coach Tom Coughlin’s freezer-burned face would become the lasting image of an instant classic, or that the Giants would use their overtime win as a springboard to what many consider the biggest upset in NFL history, a last-minute 17–14 win over New England two weeks later. All anyone knew at the time was this: It was really, really cold. What follows is an oral history of that game, told through the words of over a dozen players, coaches and executives in interviews completed this week.
Before the Game
Cullen Jenkins, Packers defensive end: We were the No. 2 seed and we got to host the championship game at home. I was thinking, We’re going to the Super Bowl.
Ryan Grant, Packers running back: Everyone thought we would be playing in the Super Bowl.
Andrew Brandt, Packers Vice President: The Cowboys were heavily favored against the Giants [in the divisional round], so at first we were mobilizing to go to Dallas. And then all of a sudden the Giants upset the Cowboys and in a flash we realize, oh my God, we are hosting the NFC Championship Game. Oh, and the forecast is minus-2.
Kevin Boss, Giants tight end: Going on the road was our thing. Someone dubbed us the Road Warriors and it stuck. Even though we were the underdogs, going into Green Bay, at Lambeau, potentially the last game of Favre’s career, we felt like we were going to win.
On the Cold
Chris Snee, Giants right guard: The topic [of the cold] first came up when we got settled on the plane heading back from Dallas. Rich [Seubert] is from that area—he took a glance over at the weather. It was brought up immediately.
Rich Seubert, Giants left guard: I grew up in the great state of Wisconsin, but it was cold for everybody that day. Didn’t matter if you lived there. Cold is cold.
The winner of this game gets to take on the 18–0 New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Arizona. One degree below zero, wind chill of minus 23 degrees on a full moon night here in Green Bay, Wisconsin. I can’t imagine what that feels like down on the field…
— Joe Buck, FOX broadcast
Jenkins: You’d go on the field, and your fingers freeze instantly. You try to trap as much heat as you can. [But] that’s the kind of game Brett [Favre] is built for. With his history at Lambeau, I definitely liked our odds.
Jared Lorenzen, Giants backup quarterback: I remember waking up in the hotel room that morning, opening up my curtains, and seeing a block of ice on the inside of the window. From that time on I knew.
Lawrence Tynes, Giants kicker: Getting out of the hotel in Appleton and walking to the bus, I was thinking, Man, this is going to suck.
Archie Manning, father of Giants QB Eli Manning: I remember walking across the parking lot. It felt like my face was cracking.
Mark Murphy, Packers president and CEO: We did not have the windows open in our box.
Seubert: Chris Snee and I, we’d always go on the field pre-game, walk around with just shorts on and our cleats and a T-shirt. We walked out there like that for about 32 seconds, and we walked right back in.
Tynes: I usually do 20 field goals pregame. We weren’t able to do more than like five or six. It was so cold we had to stop our pregame warm-up.
Jeff Feagles, Giants punter: As I’m lacing up my shoe I can barely feel my hand. By the time I went to warm up to punt, I couldn’t catch the snap anymore. My hands were so cold. I hit one punt in warm up and said, That’s it, I’m going in.
Lorenzen: Eli, Plaxico [Burress], and Amani [Toomer] usually go through a 45-minute route-tree [pregame]. I think they threw it six times that day and they were done. You breathe and it just freezes.
Boss: My aunt called me and told me that I needed to put cayenne pepper in my shoes to keep my toes warm. There were guys that were greasing themselves up with Vaseline. Or wearing rubber gloves. [Or] Vaseline, then rubber gloves, then your football gloves. Our equipment manager, Joe Skiba, put sheepskin fur in all the helmets to add a layer of warmth. I don’t know if it helped, but it was a nice gesture.
Grant: I didn’t wear sleeves. I like to feel the ball. Part of me and the craft of football is being one with the ball. I want to touch the ball, feel the ball, be the ball.
David Diehl, Giants tackle: As an offensive line we all didn’t wear sleeves during the game.
Snee: [Right tackle Kareem] McKenzie may have tried to resist a little bit.
Diehl: Kareem comes into the locker room like, You guys sure about this? You sure about this?
Snee: He had enough body hair that he basically had a sweater on, anyway.
Diehl: If I ever had to make that decision again, I don’t know if I’d go no sleeves.
Seubert: I don’t think it matters. I don’t think a little pair of tights on your arms is going to make much of a difference.
Boss: For me, my question was, am I wearing one long-sleeve shirt or two? I ended up going with just one, but there were guys that wore two long-sleeve shirts.
Lorenzen: I ended up, personally, with eight shirts on. I was still cold.
Seubert: Once the game starts, you don’t think about it anymore. It was the NFC Championship Game, it didn’t matter how cold it was. Just make sure you don’t break your fingers, because if you break them you aren’t going to be able to feel it.
Kickoff: 6:42 p.m. CT
Diehl: The tone was set on the opening play, when Brandon Jacobs ran over Charles Woodson.
Seubert: Trucked over him.
Tynes: He completely destroyed him.
Grant: For the rest of the game Charles Woodson was off. You could see it in his eyes.
“I think we have Heatergate going on down here. These benches for the visitors are supposed to be heated. I’ve gone up and down, I’ve checked it. They are ice cold. These guys are shivering over here…”
— Pam Oliver, FOX sideline reporter
Tynes: A conspiracy.
Boss: I don’t know if we were sabotaged, but they weren’t working at first. The sideline was the worst place to be. They had the big heaters that everyone was trying to huddle around to stay warm.
Diehl: You get 53 men on the roster, 48 dressed, and then coaches and staff and only two of the big heaters are working on the sidelines. You were definitely close enough to feel the body warmth off of the player next to you.
Boss: The guys that weren’t playing much wanted to be around the heaters, but then you better make room for the guys that are playing when they come off. So there was definitely some jockeying for the first row there.
Lorenzen: If you weren’t playing, sorry, you’re going to have to be cold because we need to warm these guys [that are playing] up. Forty guys can’t get around one heater.
David Tyree, Giants receiver: You can’t just hug the heater.
Lorenzen: Some of these guys were getting too close and singeing their pants. Thank God the heated benches eventually started working—they had the ones where you can put your feet inside, too. That was just, oh God, it was heaven.
Feagles: Because I played in both the ’80s and 2007, I saw the evolution of the heated bench. In the ’80s and early ’90s they didn’t have those things. Those benches were my savior. If we had a punt I’d run out there and as soon as I was done I was right back on that bench, man. That was my saving grace.
Diehl: I was sick during the game, had the flu, so I was throwing up behind those benches. And I wasn’t the only guy sick on our team. I definitely had some stuff stuck in my facemask. It was kind of nasty.
Halftime: Packers 10, Giants 6
Snee: I remember being so excited to be back in the locker room. We had this warm chicken broth. It felt incredible to drink that.
Diehl: The chicken broth, that is gold. At halftime you see all these guys listening to the game plan but looking funny because they have these little cups of chicken soup, trying to warm up.
Snee: When we were on the field we kind of let the skinny guys have the jackets and the heaters. We toughed it out. At halftime, it was our turn. We made sure we had first dibs on the broth.
Lorenzen: I didn’t have any of that chicken broth.
Snee: It was hard to pay attention to what Coach was saying because of how red his face was. I remember talking to Eli a few days after. He said he didn’t pay attention to a word coach said because of how red his cheeks were.
Diehl: Everyone is sitting there as he’s getting us ready to go for the second half, and it’s hard not to stare at him like, Is his face O.K.? Is he going to be all right in the second half? You’re looking at him and just hoping that he’s safe. His face was really red.
Feagles: His chin was frozen. His cheeks were so red I thought he was going to get frostbite forever.
Murphy: Gosh, it was unbelievable how red it was. It did not look healthy.
Lorenzen: You couldn’t look at him and take him seriously. If you ended up looking at him you’re going to wander off and think, I wonder how long he’s going to last. It was the reddest I’d ever seen anybody, almost to purple. He was like, Hey, we need to make these adjustments, and we were like, Hey, you need to put on a mask or something.
Archie Manning: Whoo. It was pretty rosy. We were all concerned about his face that night.
Start of the Third Quarter
It is a four-point game … We started at minus-1 [now minus-3]. I haven’t really been all that impressed with the Green Bay offense, an offense that has been impressive all year. They had the one play for 90 yards [to Donald Driver], but other than that play, they’ve had 24 yards of offense…
— Joe Buck
Grant: That New York defense and D-line had been playing so strong. After the game, I was talking with [Justin] Tuck, Osi [Umenyiora] and [Michael] Strahan, and they told me, “RG, our entire game plan was to stop you. Stop you and make Brett play in the cold.” And that’s exactly what they did.
Snee: It doesn’t feel great to smash into each other when it’s negative-20 degrees. [But] you have to have the physicality that we had offensively and defensively up front.
Jenkins: It was a fight. A big-time fight. We had good corners, a real good secondary. We had Al Harris.
Snee: I’m still amazed at how efficient Eli [was], given the conditions.
Lorenzen: Not one time during the game did Eli say anything about the cold. He never complained. You would never know the difference between a Week 1 game and the Super Bowl with Eli.
Seubert: Eli is tougher than people give him credit for.
Lorenzen: That’s [because of] the facial expressions. Everybody loves the Eli Face. But Eli is very scary when he plays on the road in the playoffs. Not the best at home, but you put him on the road and he loves shutting up other stadiums. He’d never say it, but he has that cold-hearted, silent assassin in him.
Seubert: He just didn’t let the cold affect him. Mentally, he just blocked it. Some guys say, Oh, boy its really cold. And some guys say, Screw it.
Archie Manning: Well, Eli, you know, he kind of just plays. People talked about how well Eli handled the cold. I remember Wednesday of the following week, Brett called me. He said, You know everybody thinks I like cold weather. I hate cold weather. Eli handled the cold better than I did.
Grant: The cold affected Brett. The cold revealed his age a little bit. That’s natural. The cold gets in your bones. It was the first time I saw him look cold.
Plaxico Burress has made it a point to come by the Packers’ bench and yell, “He can’t cover me,” pointing to Al Harris…
— Chris Meyers, FOX sideline reporter
Archie Manning: What I remember about that game was how well Plaxico played in the cold. History will show that’s gotta be one of the best games a wide receiver has played in the playoffs.
Boss: Plaxico and Eli were pretty amazing. He had 11 catches [for 151 yards] in that weather. It felt like you were catching a rock.
Diehl: Plaxico was completely unstoppable that game, from start to finish. And he wasn’t going up against some average defensive back.
Snee: Al Harris was as good as any corner in the league at that point, [and] they played pitch and catch. That’s the best game they played together. It came at the perfect time.
Tyree: It was one of the best performances of a wide receiver in the playoffs. Plax was always a great receiver. But that postseason, you felt like this dude is that legit top-five wide receiver in the league. And it was one of those moments when we got to see it all.
Start of the Fourth Quarter: Giants 20, Packers 17
Archie Manning: When you’re playing on the road and playing against a real good opponent, you sure hope to be in it. That’s what you shoot for. If you’re an underdog and playing on the road in tough conditions, you just try to get to the fourth quarter. You’re in the ballgame. You hope you got a chance.
Just under seven minutes left, tied 20–20. Tynes comes onto the field, he’s two for two. But this is no easy field goal on a night like this. A 43-yard attempt coming. No good…
Tynes: I hit it really good. I was not mad about that kick. I just missed it. It just drifted left. I misplayed the wind a little bit. It was blowing right to left.
Giants will stop the clock and give Tynes a chance with four seconds remaining. Lawrence can send the Giants into the Super Bowl. 36-yard try to win it. High snap, Feagles gets it down, and it’s hooked. We are going to overtime.
Tynes: In those conditions, everything had to be perfect. Snap, hold, kick. Snap was high, I start leaning back and left. I’m just trying to buy my leg time. Obviously the result was terrible.
Tom Coughlin, Giants head coach (to NorthJersey.com this week): I thought, Well, that’s going to be the game. That was a chip shot.
Tynes: I knew if I started the first kick, the 43-yarder, about 10 feet further to the right, I would have made it. Sometimes when you miss it’s not a bad thing, because I learned something on that play. So I knew if we got another chance in overtime, I could make probably a 50-yarder.
Diehl: We just knew if we could get him another opportunity, he would get it done.
Overtime: Giants 20, Packers 20
Jenkins: When we got into overtime and won the coin toss I thought that was it. I thought we were going to go to the Super Bowl that year. That was back with the old OT rules.
Murphy: I thought, Geez, score a field goal, you win the game. You felt pretty good about it.
Boss: It’s hard not to feel, especially with those old rules, that whoever won the coin flip it’s game over. You see the coin flip, the crowd goes crazy, and you’re like, Oh crap, we just lost the game on a coin toss.
Tynes: That was tough. You’re kicking off to Brett Favre, and we all know what he’s capable of.
Lorenzen: To see Lawrence go through those misses was awful. But I knew our defense was playing well, maybe Brett will force something and he’ll get another shot. But in the back of your mind you’re saying, We’re playing at Lambeau Field, it’s the playoffs, it’s cold, it might be Brett’s last game, this is tailor-made for him. He wasn’t the Brett Favre. But it was still Brett Favre.
Tyree: I knew we were going to win. I just had an unwavering faith about that season. I had wrote a letter at the beginning of the season letting guys know I really believed we’re going to win it this year. There is something special happening with this team.
Blitz coming from the Giants. Favre looking for Driver. And it’s picked off. Corey Webster with the interception. The biggest interception of his life.
Grant: I thought we were going to win, all the way up until Brett threw that pick. On that play, I was open in the flat. I remember turning around and just being devastated.
Jenkins: I’m thinking, defensively, we’re probably not even going to have to go on the field. Our offense is going to move the ball, get a field goal at least. And we’ll be celebrating and on our way to the Super Bowl. [But] Webster came up with a great interception.
Tyree: When Webby got that pick, it was too much.
Manning throws, it’s tipped away. And now here we are again, third time for Lawrence Tynes. 47 yard try. He has missed his last two…
Tynes: The moment Eli’s third-down pass hit the ground, I ran onto the field and got to my spot. I looked around and didn’t see our field goal unit. I was like, What are we doing here? I saw Jeff talking to Coach Coughlin.
Feagles: Tom looked at me and gave me the nod like, Go punt. I was coming on to the field ready to punt, and I looked over and here comes Lawrence Tynes running onto the field too. I was like, “What are you doing?” And he said, “We’re going to knock this through.” That’s when Tom said, “You know what, just go and do it.” He wasn’t going to stop the guy.
Coughlin (to NorthJersey.com this week): I remember in the first quarter, I asked Lawrence, “Can you make a 46-yard field goal?” and he turned his back and walked away. This is a 47-yarder to get you in the Super Bowl? I don’t say anything. He drops his cape and goes out on the field. So I say, “Field goal!” The coaches are yelling, “No! We’re going to lose the field position and lose the game.”
Tynes: I had to show somebody some sort of sign of confidence. I was running out there to really show them that I can make this kick. I’m out here, I’m not afraid.
Lorenzen: All Lawrence wanted was one more shot. 47 yards is insane. I was just thinking, Please God make it. If not, they are going to cut him. And God forbid that game went any longer into overtime, I don’t know if [Coughlin] would have made it.
Diehl: I was thinking: Can we just end this game and get off of the field?
Boss: My feeling then was that I’m glad I’m not a kicker.
Tynes: I knew the moment I impacted the ball that it was good. My first thought was, Get the hell off the field. That’s why I turned and ran directly to the tunnel. I was in the locker room for like three or four minutes before I saw another player.
Lorenzen: He was in the locker room before it crossed the upright. I wanted to celebrate with him, but that ball was up, and he was gone.
Feagles: Normally after we kick a field goal, we have a little high-five or whatever. Lawrence just took off and left me hanging.
Diehl: Everyone is celebrating and running towards the locker room at the same time. You weren’t rushing to get the pads off, you were rushing to stay as warm as possible.
Lorenzen: When that ball crossed the crossbar, I wasn’t cold anymore. I was just numb.
Murphy: Nothing worse than watching another team celebrate a trip to the Super Bowl on your home field.
The Aftermath in Green Bay
Jenkins: It was pretty quiet [in our locker room]. It was just depressing, a bad feeling. Everybody was just kind of down and just trying to figure out what the heck just happened.
Grant: It was heartbreaking.
Jenkins: I was at home shivering for about an hour after I got home. That was on my birthday, too. I just went home, maybe poured up a drink and just tried not to watch any sports channels.
Grant: After the game I was talking with [Packers coach] Mike [McCarthy], I remember sitting with him and being like, “Damn, we got pushed around.” There were just no lanes. That defense carried them. They deserved it. It was the one that got away with Brett. But I didn’t think that [would be his last game as a Packer] at the time, not even at all.
Murphy: I don’t think a lot of people thought at the time that this was his last game as a Packer. I’m sure some thought it could have been, but it certainly wasn’t a prevailing thought. He had a great year in ’07. Now, looking back, that was his last game as a Packer.
Jenkins: I never thought what happened next [with Favre] would have happened. All the retiring. It was pretty unexpected.
Brandt: We had been through it for so many years, the will-he-or-won’t-he [retire] with Brett. I personally felt he was going to come back every year. But if he decided that was it, we had this guy in the bullpen for three years [in Aaron Rodgers], and it was time to turn the keys over to him.
The Long Thaw
Lorenzen: Because it was so cold, we did the [NFC championship] trophy presentation inside, in our locker room. When we are doing the trophy presentation I remember Mrs. Mara yelling at Terry Bradshaw because Terry had picked us to lose every game. I love that woman.
Tynes: After the game I take my sock off and boom, I have this three-inch by two-inch knot on the top of my foot, where all my blood vessels had busted. It was from a kickoff in the first half. I felt it, but didn’t think too much about it. My sock had kept all the pressure in, and when I took it off my foot blew up to a two-inch knot, like a baseball.
Feagles: In the first half it was bothering him, but he just realized he had to play through it. There was nobody behind him. Well, I was the guy behind him. Better having nobody. I can’t kick field goals. He wanted to redeem himself, whether he had a broken foot or not.
Tynes: I had to get it drained the next day, they took out a lot of fluid. I would not have played in the Super Bowl had we played that weekend. Thank God we had two weeks. I didn’t kick again until the next Wednesday or Thursday of that week before the game.
Tyree: I had three or four fingertips that took months to get their full sensation back.
Boss: The thing that lasted the longest for me was my lungs. Your lungs take such a beating from breathing the cold air in, sucking the wind in. I remember my lungs feeling like I was a smoker or something. I had this deep hack for several weeks. And chapped lips that never went away.
Snee: I was sick. Had a respiratory thing for the week after the game. I was coughing up phlegm. That reflects having played in negative-20 degrees.
Tynes: I was sick for 48 hours after the game, throwing up. But that’s to be expected when you are playing in that kind of weather, it was just so extreme. I got my foot drained and came home and was sick the whole rest of the next day. But it’s still the best game of my life.