NEW YORK – A major winter storm dumped several inches of snow in Philadelphia on Saturday, forcing hundreds of stadium workers into duty to clear out Lincoln Financial Field (search) before Sunday's NFC championship game between the Eagles and Atlanta Falcons.
Across the state, just a few inches of snow fell in Pittsburgh one day before the Steelers hosted the New England Patriots (search) in the AFC title game at Heinz Field.
The Falcons arrived in Philadelphia early Saturday afternoon after moving their flight up 4 1/2 hours to avoid travel delays. The Patriots averted any problems by leaving Friday night.
"I think when it's all said and done, it comes down to playing the game," Eagles coach Andy Reid said.
However, slippery field conditions could work in Philadelphia's favor against Atlanta's strong running attack, neutralizing quarterback Michael Vick's speed and elusiveness and slowing speedy running back Warrick Dunn.
"I think he'll have more of an advantage if it's good footing out there," Eagles defensive end Jevon Kearse said of Vick. "Hopefully, it'll be bad footing for someone like Vick."
Steelers running back Jerome Bettis welcomed a wet surface in Pittsburgh, though he wasn't expected to get his wish.
"I'm a mudder," he said. "A fast track doesn't do much for me. The worse the field, the better for me."
About one foot snow was expected to fall in Philadelphia before Sunday's 3 p.m. kickoff, but city officials said the field and stadium should be completely cleared out. More than 750 workers were on standby with 975 shovels and 65 tons of ice-melt. The field at the Linc was covered by a tarp and heated to 70 degrees.
As many as 200 workers stayed busy at Heinz Field cleaning snow off seats and ramps. The field, also covered with a tarp, was not likely to be affected.
Once the snow clears out, a game-time temperature of 18 with a minus-7 wind chill factor is predicted in Philadelphia. Forecasters are calling for 16-degree temperatures and a wind chill around 10 for the early evening game in Pittsburgh.
The cold weather is nothing out of the ordinary for late January and three of the teams are accustomed to dealing with harsh elements. The Falcons, however, play in a dome.
"I think that both teams have to go out and handle the environment, no matter what that environment is," Atlanta rookie coach Jim Mora said. "When you're a good football team, and I think that these are two good football teams, the environment is a factor that other people worry about more than the players on the field and the coaches on the sideline. I think that to be great, you have to be able to play in any conditions."
The Patriots have won 15 of their last 17 games in temperatures of 35 or below. The Steelers are 5-2 in the same kind of weather the last three seasons.
The Eagles are 8-1 at home this season, and the Falcons were 4-4 on the road.
"Regardless of weather, we're coming to play football," Vick said. "Football is played in all types of conditions: rain, sleet, snow or whatever. You have to go out and play the game."