Packers ready to 'relive' Ice Bowl history
Dom Capers laughed so hard, it took his breath. He knew the question was coming. For the Green Bay Packers' unofficial historian, it was unavoidable.
Capers couldn't even make it to his media session before he was asked about the Ice Bowl. When the team met for the first time this week on Monday morning, coach Mike McCarthy discussed Dec. 31, 1967.
Instinctively, players and coaches turned to their fifth-year defensive coordinator.
"It's kind of a joke in our team meeting room," McCarthy said. "Any time there's something that happened a long time ago, I'll just say, 'You know, none of us were born.' And then everybody will go, 'Well, what about Dom?'
"I was just trying to get another, 'What about Dom?' It worked."
This week, the history is relevant.
When Green Bay hosts the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC divisional round 12:05 p.m. Sunday, it will be a rematch of the 1967 NFL Championship Game. The Packers and Cowboys have met six times in the postseason. The past four were in Dallas.
On Sunday, the Cowboys will play their first postseason game at Lambeau Field since the Ice Bowl, when Bart Starr's quarterback sneak sealed their berth in Super Bowl II.
Now, Capers was left to discuss one of the most famous games in NFL history, simply because he was around to see it. He found the distinction humorous. Hunched over from laughing, Capers lifted his head and looked into the cameras.
"Well," he shrugged, "I remember watching the game."
Capers joked he was probably the only person sitting in Green Bay's meeting room who could recall Starr's sneak first hand. With the exception of offensive coordinator Tom Clements — born three years later, in 1953 — he was right.
Capers was 16 years old when he watched the Ice Bowl.
McCarthy was 4.
Julius Peppers, the Packers' oldest player by almost three years, would be born 12 years after Starr followed right guard Jerry Kramer's block into the end zone.
Players didn't have to witness the game to understand its significance. Around the locker room, they were aware of the historical context surrounding them. Which is why McCarthy voluntarily mentioned the Ice Bowl when he addressed his team.
No sense in ignoring the inescapable.
"I think Coach made a statement that none of us were born when that was played," defensive end Mike Daniels said. "That's history, and that's awesome to be able to, I guess, kind of relive it, so to speak. Because from what I understand, I think it's going to be — it's typically fairly cold out here in January. That's just pretty cool.
"You figure these two teams haven't met at Lambeau in the playoffs since '67. That's pretty interesting."
The Ice Bowl was a rare success in Green Bay's postseason history against Dallas. While the Packers developed into a championship contender in the 1990s, the Cowboys were the last hurdle they needed to clear.
Green Bay backup quarterback Matt Flynn grew up in Tyler, Texas, about 90 minutes outside Dallas. Naturally, he was a Cowboys fan. Flynn didn't hesitate Monday when asked about his favorite memory rooting for the Cowboys in the 1990s.
"I was at a Super Bowl party almost every year," Flynn said. "That was fun."
Many of those Super Bowl parties came at the Packers' expense.
Green Bay lost its past four playoff games against Dallas, including three straight from 1993-95. They haven't met in January since the 1995 NFC Championship Game. The Packers led by a field goal entering the fourth quarter, but the Cowboys outscored them 14-0 in the final 15 minutes.
It seems odd for two of the NFL's premier franchises to have no playoff confrontations in the past two decades, but Green Bay and Dallas have plenty of recent history. The Packers have won three straight games against the Cowboys, none more memorable than their December meeting last season. Green Bay overcame a 23-point halftime deficit at AT&T Stadium, scoring 34 second-half points to rally for a 37-36 win.
Flynn was the quarterback for that stunning comeback. On Monday, he called it one of the "high points" of his career. He also said there isn't much information from that game Green Bay can use while preparing this week.
"Similar in personnel, but it's a different team," Flynn said. "That last game isn't even really a thought probably for any team going into this one. Same uniforms, different teams."
Now the slate is wiped clean. One game. Six days to prepare. Green Bay is 8-0 at home this season, Dallas 8-0 on the road.
One team has to lose. The other will be one game from Super Bowl XLIX.
As Sunday nears, the stakes of this divisional round will take center stage. But, inside Green Bay's locker room, there was a sense that two storied teams are revisiting — and extending — a legacy.
Packers receiver Jordy Nelson said he's watched bits of the 1967 title game on NFL Network reruns. What does the Ice Bowl mean to him?
Each time, he has the same thought.
"It means it's cold," Nelson said. "Just more history of the Packers, the great history that it has. Games that can become part of that history in the playoffs. Obviously, two teams that are quote-unquote America's team. Dallas has always claimed that, but I think the Packers are right there with them with what we've done over the years.
"It's just part of the history of Green Bay and it's an honor to be a part of it. Hopefully, we can add to it."
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood