Cowboys under winter storm warning as they face cruelest month beginning in Chicago

Posted Thursday, Dec. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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lebreton Clear the roadways! Close the schools! Empty the grocery shelves of D-cell batteries!

We’re under a winter storm warning, and that includes you, too, Dallas Cowboys.

Chicago awaits. And even better, it’s going to be on Monday night, because what says welcome better than four hours on a December evening on the shores of Lake Michigan?

My memory may be a little foggy, but the coldest football game I can remember attending in the 30-something years that I’ve been doing this was, indeed, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

It was the Bears hosting the 49ers for the 1988 season’s NFC championship. Game time temperature — at 3 p.m., more than four hours earlier than Monday’s scheduled Cowboys-Bears kickoff — was 20 degrees with a north wind officially listed at 29 mph. That made the wind chill minus-2 at the start of the game.

I’m not sure what the temperature was after the game, but I recall that opening the door of the rental car was like cracking open an igloo.

But here’s the thing: The 49ers of San Francisco won the game 28-3, and Joe Montana passed for three touchdowns and 288 yards.

No one of sound mind would suggest that the current Cowboys, 7-5 on the season, resemble those Montana-led 49ers teams in any way. But good teams, history tells us, can prevail in any type of weather, and the Cowboys are about to find out whether they deserve that designation.

Cornerback Orlando Scandrick told the Valley Ranch media, “You’re going to be cold, and you’re going to have to have the mental toughness, the focus and the will to go out and do it.”

Scandrick himself put the emphasis on the will. He was talking about mind over matter — the old bromide about how if you don’t mind the elements, the weather shouldn’t matter.

Scandrick ought to know. He played at Boise State and the Broncos never lost a regular-season game at home during the three years that he started for them.

But don’t use him for any example, apparently.

“I don’t like the cold, period,” Scandrick said.

Boise employed a secret weapon when it was recruiting him from sunny southern California.

“They tricked me,” he said. “When I was in Boise on a recruiting trip, they were, like, ‘These days don’t happen very often.’”

Mind over matter, though. Beginning Monday night, the Cowboys have to show that they’re built for December.

My colleague Charean Williams reminded us of a staggering statistic this week. Since the 1997 season, the Cowboys are 28-43 in games played in December.

Some of those 43 defeats occurred indoors, so it isn’t all about having a rugged back that can run out the clock on an icy field. And I say that with all due respects to Tyler Clutts, the new fullback who arrived last week from, I think, Amazon.com.

In that aforementioned 49ers-Bears game, however, San Francisco ran the football 37 times and passed 27. The Bears, meanwhile, threw 41 passes and ran 25.

In the other near-Arctic game that I remember — Cowboys at Philadelphia in the 1980 NFC title game — the run-pass balance was the same.

The Cowboys are not going to have a happy December if they have to throw the football 40 times a game. They can’t allow the angry expatriate, defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, to become a factor. They’re going to have to allow running back DeMarco Murray to do all that he can do.

It has been suggested that Christmas came early for the Cowboys when the Bears announced this week that starting quarterback Jay Cutler wouldn’t be able to play in this game.

Unfortunately, the Cowboys have to go to Chicago on Monday night to claim their gift.

The early forecast for kickoff at Soldier Field is 15 degrees with a 20 mph wind.

Welcome to December, the Cowboys’ not-so-favorite month.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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