Cold weather affects players, but not as much as it used to
Q. How much are NFL players affected by cold weather?
A. A lot depends on the field conditions. The field Sunday (at Soldier Field) was so soft that it really takes all the abuse out of it. When they had Astro-turf, and they didn't have the sophisticated heating system underneath the field, it would freeze as hard as concrete and it would have much more of a mental affect and be more of a factor in tackling, blocking. Everything was a lot more abusive than it is now.
The most painful thing about a cold-weather game are the three-minute TV timeouts. You go stand on the field in the huddle for three minutes while they're doing commercials. That's really the only bad time. As far as listening to the playcall, going to the line of scrimmage and running the play, that's not bad. Especially with the surface as soft as it was, it should not have been a factor in the game.
Q. What was the coldest game you ever played in?
A. The one I remember is the (1988) NFC championship game against the 49ers because there was precipitation, there was wind, and it was super cold (17 degrees, 29-mph winds). A couple of the Redskins games in the playoffs, they were cold, too (4 degrees in the '87 playoff game). But the one that sticks out is the San Francisco game.
Q. Did you wear long sleeves?
A. No. You know what, I take that back, it's the only game in my career I ever put more clothes on at halftime.
Q. Did you put on long sleeves?
A. I wanna say I did.
Q. What are the keys to staying warm if you can't really bundle up?
A. Stay moving around. Once you leave the locker room, you put your helmet on and you never take it off until halftime and after the game. It's just a frame of mind. You really don't think about the cold that much, and you really don't have that much exposed skin. It's not as much of a factor as it's talked up to be.
Q. Does it make a difference when you get hit on a bitterly cold day?
A. If you get hit hard, it does hurt. If you hit hard, it doesn't hurt that much, and that's always the case in football - make sure you hit the other guy harder than he hits you.
Q. How much of an advantage do the Bears have against a warm-weather team that's also a dome team coming in to what are expected to be adverse conditions?
A. I think it's going to be a significant advantage. If you look at a sniper, they always take wind into account to hit their target. In a game like this, you have to factor in conditions like wind and temperature and footing because of timing. That's what allows a team like the Saints to have such an overwhelming, effective passing game. When you put some hindrances in that formula, it's going to slow them down.
Q. Is it a misperception that the only thing the Saints can do offensively is throw the ball?
A. Yes. Pierre Thomas can run the ball. He's got a lot of desire; he showed it here last year (105 yards on 20 carries, 121 yards on 12 catches). But I think when you look from the top on down when you go through (coach) Sean Payton to Drew Brees, that's what they do - they throw the ball efficiently. A lot of time their efficiency is because they run the passing game like a running game. They'll get short connections, and they'll identify a mismatch for a 3-yard completion that goes for 50 yards after the catch. A lot of time when you throw the ball as much as they do, you have to consider some of their passes are like runs.
Q. A lot of people seem disappointed with Sunday's victory over the Jaguars because it wasn't dominant. What was your take?
A. I'm thinking the same way. Once you get a lead that seems in your mind insurmountable, then sometimes teams have a tendency to relax. My evaluation always starts with championship play on down. I look at a team and ask myself if they're a championship football team. I didn't see a championship performance Sunday by the Bears. I saw a playoff participant, but I didn't see a championship football team.
• Tom Thayer answers key questions from Daily Herald Sports Writer Bob LeGere before most Bears games. Thayer's analysis can also be heard during each Bears broadcast on WBBM 780-AM.