What: NFC wild-card game, Falcons vs. Packers
When: Jan. 4, 2003
Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.
Score: Falcons 27, Packers 7
What happened: The Falcons punched a hole in the Lambeau Field mystique.
The way people were talking, the Falcons might as well have stayed in Atlanta.
Certainly the Falcons, a team from a Southern city that played in a dome, couldn’t win at Green Bay in January. This Atlanta team, with flashy quarterback Michael Vick and losers of three of its past four games, wouldn’t be the opponent to sully the Packers’ 11-0 playoff record at Lambeau Field.
If any of the Falcons thought the same, Crumpler said that changed when the team got to Green Bay.
“For some reason, it wasn’t very cold in Green Bay,” he said. “Once we were able to get over that, we were able to focus on the game.”
Until that day, the closest the Packers had come to losing at Lambeau Field in the playoffs was in the famous “Ice Bowl” game, a 21-17 victory against Dallas in the 1967 NFL Championship game. Against the Falcons, the Packers never had a chance.
Packers fans and many watching on television may have been stunned, but Crumpler said the Falcons relaxed once it became clear the weather wouldn’t be a major factor.
“Everybody tried to make it about a dome team being at Lambeau and about (the Packers) never having lost a game there, but I don’t think we saw it like that,” he said.
The temperature was a tolerable 31 degrees at kickoff. Still, Packers quarterback Brett Favre had won all 35 of his home starts in which the temperature was 35 degrees or less.
Even Favre was helpless against the Falcons. Atlanta scored a touchdown on the opening drive, recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown to go up 14-0 and led 24-0 at halftime.
Snow started falling at halftime, but it was too late for the Packers.
“We’d already imposed our will on both sides of the ball in that game,” Crumpler said. “We just had to hold on.”
The Falcons lost 20-6 at Philadelphia the next week to start a streak of four consecutive postseason losses that’s still alive.
The Falcons earned a place in the NFL history books with the victory at Lambeau Field, but Crumpler said the team didn’t consider it a milestone. The Falcons had been to the Super Bowl four seasons earlier, and the focus was on getting back.
“I don’t think we ever viewed it as a major accomplishment,” he said. “We were thinking, ‘This is a team that is going to get to the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl’ and everybody else was worried about elements and all this other stuff.”
Where is he now: Crumpler works for Atlanta television station WGCL.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “I do get excited when I am back (covering the Falcons) because I get to see familiar faces. It’s a comfortable environment for me. I just talk about what I see. I figure that’s enough.”
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