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This one deserving of its own identity

Football has never been more important


GREEN BAY—Comparison to the "Ice Bowl" is purely romantic. Other than the Lambeau Field bench seats that remain, nothing about the Cowboys and Packers bears resemblance to the franchises they were nearly 50 years ago.

The Cowboys were an expansion franchise attempting to survive within the boundaries of the college football frenzy that was the Southwest Conference. The Packers were the team of the 1960s, but less than a decade removed from abject losing and worry about the future of professional football in Green Bay.

One game, the "Ice Bowl," changed all of that.

The two teams that'll meet in Lambeau Field on Sunday, are the product of that game; they possess two of the best brands in all of sports. They are two of the richest and most deeply rooted, irreplaceable franchises in professional sports, and nothing about Sunday's game will change these two franchises' position and place.

On Dec. 31, 1967, they were playing for status. This Sunday, they will play in pursuit of the Super Bowl.

Sunday's winner will either go to Seattle or host the Carolina Panthers in the NFC title game. The winner will move one step away from sports' most celebrated game. On Dec. 31, 1967, the Packers won football's most celebrated game, as the Super Bowl back then had yet to be even so named.

For all of the celebration that is the "Ice Bowl," this Sunday's game is much more important and celebrated in what is today's sports landscape than the "Ice Bowl" was when it was played. It wasn't even shown on TV in Green Bay. Imagine that.

Put any name you want on Sunday's playoff game, but don't underestimate its importance and value to today's fans. There are more of them, as will be evidenced by Sunday's TV ratings, and football has never been more important in our lives than it is right now.

Here are 10 things the Packers have to do to beat the Cowboys.

1. Stop the run – If the Packers don't do that, forget about it.

2. Protect Aaron Rodgers – On a worrisome calf injury, Rodgers must be allowed to function within the pocket.

3. Run the ball – It goes to time of possession and that means keeping the Cowboys offense on the sideline, where it'll be warm and cozy and tough to leave.

4. Play with that same energy – The Packers overwhelmed the Lions with a passion for winning. Find that passion again.

5. Convert third down – The Cowboys defense is No. 27 on third down. It's how you keep your offense on the field and keep theirs on the sideline.

6. Cover Jason Witten – Witten is Tony Romo's checkdown go-to guy.

7. Frustrate Dez Bryant – The highly emotional and sometimes disruptive Bryant is the Cowboys' touchdown maker.

8. Get off the field – The Cowboys' are No. 2 in third-down offense.

9. Be the home team – This is your field and your weather, and these are your fans.

10. Head south in the fourth quarter – Because the south end zone is this franchise's identity.

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