When I think of the Green Bay Packers, the immediate images are snow, Lambeau Field and a huge Falcons victory. For most Falcons fans, you know what I'm talking about.
It was Jan. 4, 2003 and it was NFC Wild Card Weekend. The Birds traveled to Green Bay to face Brett Favre and the Packers in what some pundits thought was a mismatch. The Pack had never lost in the postseason at the hallowed grounds of Lambeau Field (11-0) and the Falcons had barely qualified for the playoffs on the season's last day with a 9-6-1 record.
History, however, was about to be re-written.
As I got off the team bus at the stadium two-and-half hours before kickoff, I remember thinking to myself… "It really doesn't feel that cold." That sounded kind of crazy as the temperature dipped to 31 degrees and a light snow was in the air.
Suffice it to say, I kept those thoughts to myself. I went out on the field about an hour later, and as DE Patrick Kerney finished his early warmups and was walking back in to the locker room, I heard him turn to fellow lineman Brady Smith and say…"What a perfect night for football. I hope it snows even more during the game. It doesn't feel that cold out here." Maybe I wasn't so crazy after all.
The Falcons shrugged off the weather and jumped all over the Packers as if they were playing in the cozy confines of the Georgia Dome. After not scoring a touchdown on one single opening drive throughout the entire regular season, Atlanta engineered an impressive 10-play, 76-yard march after receiving the opening kickoff. WR Shawn Jefferson finished off the drive with a 10-yard scoring catch even before Packers fans could get settled into their frozen seats.
Later in the first quarter, the Packers were forced to punt from their own 12-yard line when Falcons LB Mark Simoneau broke through the line and blocked the attempt. Special teams star LB Artie Ulmer pounced on the loose ball to record another quick touchdown as Atlanta built a 14-0 lead. Before the half was over, the scoreboard read, Atlanta 24, Green Bay 0. And you could easily read the faces of disappointment on the Green Bay faithful.
Kerney got his wish in the second half as a hard and steady snowfall covered Lambeau. On this night, all three phases for the Falcons were clicking and contributed to the historic 27-7 victory. The defense intercepted Favre two times while forcing and recovering three fumbles. The offense managed 192 yards on the ground with four scoring drives. In addition to the blocked punt, Atlanta's special teams also forced a fumble on a punt return that led to another Falcons score.
So as you enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends this week and build some lasting memories, save some good thoughts for Sunday. The strong memories of a certain Falcons-Packers game in years past can serve as a confident reminder of what can happen if the Birds bring their 'A' game.