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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Icon tried to freeze out iconic phrase

Legendary Packers coach Vince Lombardi didn't like the redundancy of 'frozen tundra' since tundra by definition is frozen ground.

December 25, 2010|Sam Farmer

When the New York Giants play at Green Bay on Sunday, temperatures are expected to dip into the low teens.

Surely, somebody will refer to the "frozen tundra" of Lambeau Field.

Funny thing about that phrase, though, is that Vince Lombardi didn't like it, and didn't want it used in the Packers' highlight films. It was coined by Steve Sabol, now president of NFL Films, and he used it in his script for the "Ice Bowl," the 1967 NFL championship game between the Packers and Dallas Cowboys.

As the story goes, Lombardi, a teacher first and foremost, didn't like the phrase because it was redundant — tundra, by definition, is frozen.

But Sabol says there's more to it than that. He said Lombardi was embarrassed that the $200,000 field-heating system he had pushed for didn't work. The field was supposed to be thawed, regardless of the weather.

"When I wrote it, he said that there was no way in the highlight film — which was a big deal back then, they showed it to all the stockholders," Sabol recalled. "He didn't want them asking about that heating system."

Lombardi would routinely edit Sabol's scripts for films involving the Packers.

"He'd go over my script with a pencil and take out some words, or say 'This sounds awkward,' or change some names, or 'This guy doesn't deserve this much credit,'?" Sabol said.

Sabol complied with the frozen tundra request, changing it to "the ice-bucket chill of a Wisconsin winter." In their version of the film, however, the Cowboys insisted on keeping frozen tundra, and in fact used it twice.

Although people often associate "frozen tundra" with the resonant tones of legendary NFL Films narrator John Facenda, it was five years before he ever uttered it on film. The first narrator to use it was Frank Glieber, in the Dallas highlight film.

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Turnover for better

Turnovers are often game-changers, and people seldom force them against the New England Patriots.

In fact, the Patriots have gone six games without giving up an interception or a fumble — the longest such streak in NFL history.

Tom Brady is a big reason for that, and he has thrown almost eight touchdowns for every interception this season. He has not been picked off in his last 292 pass attempts. He needs 17 more throws to set the NFL record for the most consecutive passes without an interception.

The most consecutive pass attempts without an interception in NFL history (*active):

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PLAYER / YEAR(S) / TEAM / PASSES

Bernie Kosar / 1990-1991 / Cleveland / 308

Bart Starr / 1964-1965 / Green Bay294

Tom Brady / 2010 / New England / 292*

Source: NFL?

Ryan on a run

Should Atlanta beat New Orleans on Monday night, the Falcons' Matt Ryan would tie Dan Marino for the most victories (33) by a starting quarterback in his first three seasons in the modern-era NFL. A look (*third-year quarterbacks):

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PLAYER (TEAM) / YEARS / WINS

Dan Marino (Miami) / 1983-1985 / 33

Matt Ryan* (Atlanta) / 2008-2010 / 32*

Joe Flacco* (Baltimore) / 2008-2010 / 30*

Ben Roethlisberger (Pittsburgh) / 2004-2006 / 29

John Elway (Denver) / 1983-1985 / 27

Source: NFL?

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

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