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Barry Hirstius

Saints vs. Packers Could Turn Nasty — But It Won’t Be Anything Like “The Mud Bowl”

The New Orleans Saints will be attempting to win their 4th consecutive game later this afternoon when they visit the Packers at the legendary Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in another key match-up within the National Football Conference that could have possible Playoff implications down the line at the end of the season.

However as it stands of this moment: they might have to do so, in adverse weather conditions.

Today's current forecast as of this writing has the potential for rain showers that may linger into the 1st quarter, which could potentially lead to a critical fumble or an ill-timed dropped pass for either team.

Temperatures in the morning will climb through the 50's to a temperature of 60 for kickoff. Temperatures will be near 60 at the end of the game. Additionally: winds may impact play as they will be out of the west at 7-14 mph with higher gusts possible.

Photo courtesy of Packersville USA

Now it's up for debate which team will be impacted more should the weather actually turn bad this afternoon on the great Central Plain of eastern Wisconsin, but regardless of whatever happens: it won't ever top the events of December 26th, 1977.

Now I'm an "old guy" — so for Saints fans not any older than age 35; you either won't remember this game or you never even knew that it was ever played, to begin with.

But for Saints fans or long-time observers of the sport of Pro Football that are my age (I turn 50 next Saturday), they'll never forget the 1977 NFC Divisional Playoff game between the host Los Angeles Rams and the visiting Minnesota Vikings that went on to become famously known as "The Mud Bowl".

It was on that day as luck would have it, that the city of Los Angeles and all of Southern California (where a famous song says allegedly is a place where it "never rains") was engulfed in a torrential rainstorm. 

As a result: the Los Angeles Coliseum — the Rams' home stadium — was turned into a field that resembled "pig slop".

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press Archives

And as it turns out: that actually gave the tough-minded Vikings the advantage, as they had more experience in rough or adverse weather conditions since they were used to playing their home games at Exhibition Stadium in Minneapolis; which was no stranger to a blinding snowstorm or a blizzard or two.

The Rams on the other hand were used to playing in the sunshine that surrounds Hollywood, and it showed early on.

Vikings starting All-Pro quarterback Fran Tarkenton had been injured during an October regular season game and was lost for the remainder of the year, and so Minnesota head coach Bud Grant's strategy was to have back-up quarterback Bob Lee throw early before the field lost traction.

So much for those plans.

After all: as you might expect for a game that ended up being called "The Mud Bowl", the field was one gigantic mess.

Because the rain had started the night before rather unexpectedly and had caught the L.A. Coliseum grounds crew COMPLETELY unprepared; from the time of opening kickoff until the game's final whistle; the whole middle of the field was nothing but mud and resembled 'pig slop' on a farm somewhere "out in the country".

The end result was that EVERYBODY — players, referees and even the coaches on the sidelines — were covered in mud to the point where it was hard to tell who was who; and especially for the Vikings because their white jerseys were completely covered in mud.

As for the Rams, you could somewhat see their numbers and names on the back of their jerseys through the mud, since they were colored bright yellow.

But "down in the trenches", each team's offensive and defensive lines were just completely coated in mud. The Vikings even changed jerseys at halftime, but only 5 plays into the 3rd quarter, they were just as dirty as they were before they had changed them.

As for the "highlights" of the game itself?

Like I mentioned above: with the field as bad as it was and essentially the equivalent of playing in 'pig slop', Grant decided to have his QB Bob Lee throw as often as possible early in the game, although Lee didn't throw anything deep (and probably couldn't even if he wanted to).

It actually worked on the Vikings opening drive, as Lee went 5-for-5 and Minnesota got a 5-yard TD run from their All-Pro RB Chuck Foreman for an early 7-0 lead. After that opening score however, Lee failed to complete any of the other remaining 6 passes that he attempted.

Grant abandoned the pass altogether, and had the Vikings offense switch exclusively to the running game, finishing the game with 28 straight running plays.  

Foreman ran tough on 31 carries for 101 yards, and it was a battle on literally every play — as he kept being met head-on by Rams All-Pro defensive end / outside linebacker Jack Youngblood.

Photo courtesy of The Associated Press Archives

Meanwhile, the Rams offense struggled mightily against the veteran Minnesota D-Line and Rams QB Pat Haden, who had only thrown six interceptions during the entire regular season; ended up throwing three in this game against the Vikings secondary.

As a result: Rams head coach Chuck Knox had Haden and the Rams offense rely heavily on their top RB Lawrence McCutheon; who actually did pretty well as he managed to break off a couple of big runs and finished the contest with 102 yards on just 16 carries.

With less than 1 minute left remaining to be played in the game, Haden threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to WR Harold Jackson to cut the score to 14–7.

Then to add some excitement for the devoted Rams fans who had stayed and watched in attendance as well as the folks at home watching on TV: the Rams then recovered the ensuing onside kick — but Vikings safety Jeff Wright intercepted Haden's desperation pass in the end zone on the game's final play.

The final score was 14-7, and the Vikings advanced to the NFC Championship Game the following week against Dallas — whom they lost to by a score of 23-6, setting up a Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos match-up in the first ever Super Bowl played inside the Superdome: Super Bowl XII.

Now for those Saints fans who found this little tale to be somewhat boring, I can't say that I blame you.

After all, nobody really wants to see a game where all that happens is that the players flop around in the mud for 3 solid hours.

But for "old school" guys like myself, "The Mud Bowl" is THE prime example of the sport of Pro Football played in its purest form: an unequivocal devotion towards running the football, and relying heavily on the play of your respective lines "down in the trenches" on both sides of the ball, to win it for you.

If the Saints and the Packers were to see Lambeau Field turn into such a scene later today, you'd probably be able to expect a similar scenario; with Saints head coach Sean Payton electing to go with a "heavy dose" of RB's Mark Ingram and the rookie sensation Alvin Kamara.

(Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Subsequently, Payton would then hope that the currently "red hot" Saints defense can stop Packers QB Brett Hundley from having any type of success in his first ever NFL start.

But no matter what happens — and even if it gets just "downright nasty" up in Green Bay this afternoon — it's very unlikely that it will be anything like "The Mud Bowl"............

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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