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.