NFL Nation: Metrodome

Metrodome memories from players, fans

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
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The Minnesota Vikings' 32-year history in the Metrodome has been marked by two groups of people: the players who have taken the field there and the fans who have filled the stadium since 1982, turning it into one of the NFL's loudest and most imposing venues. According to Football Outsiders' Bill Barnwell, the Vikings have had the fifth biggest home-field advantage in the NFL since 2002, based on their point differential in home and road games.

You've already heard our Metrodome memories. So, in this post, we thought it best to turn things over to the people who made the place what it was:




Allen
"I can remember countless times, when you put your hand in the ground and you can just feel the vibrations coming off. I can barely hear now, and I credit that to our [65,000] strong screaming at the Dome. I'm going to be 40 years old with hearing aids." -- Vikings defensive end Jared Allen




"The one that sticks out is watching our team finish against Green Bay a year ago, at the end of the season to get us into the playoffs. That run by Adrian and that kick by Blair, that was a fun memory, hearing the crowd chanting after we walked off the field. That was one I'll hold onto for a long, long time." -- Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier




"I have been blessed to attend four games at the Metrodome, thanks to my parents. The most memorable came on Oct. 19, 2003 (a day before my birthday). My family is from Gillette, Wyo., and we traveled up to Minnesota in 2003 to watch Randy Moss toss the ball behind his head to Moe Williams right before halftime for a TD as the last play of the first half. I will never forget that play! The Dome was rocking, as the Vikings defeated the Broncos 28-20!" -- Scott Jahner, Gillette, Wyo.




"I did not like playing in this building. I couldn't breathe here. I had the same phenomenon in Detroit, which was a sister stadium. I loved the atmosphere. I've got great memories here, but I don't have too much good to say about being a player in this building. I'm ready for them to knock 'er down. I think it was something to do with the pressurized ceiling. It's kind of packed in. It starts out two or three hours before the game -- you're walking around, it's good and cool -- and then they fill it with people, and it gets hot real quick. It was always too hot for me. I like the cold weather. After playing the first year in the Met, and coming in here, I felt like we lost a little bit of an edge over teams that had to come play us. I don't think I'm alone in that fact. I appreciate that some of those days in my 13 years here, we wouldn't have played the game [outdoors]. It would have been almost impossible to have a meaningful football game. Some of them were really bad. They'd always show the scene outside the Metrodome, and I remember a couple of those days saying, 'Yeah, it's probably a good thing we're not out there.'" -- Former Vikings tackle Tim Irwin, who played with the team from 1981-93




"I came back here for the 40th [anniversary team], and I look around, and there's all kinds of, like, dinosaur creatures, something else riding a snowmobile, something else on a motorcycle, two or three Vikings. It's kind of weird -- and I'm not saying they don't belong there. I just can't imagine Bud or Burnsie [former coach Jerry Burns] wanting that much going on." -- Irwin




Favre
"I have many memories of our tradition of going to the opening home game from when I was 12 until I was 24 (I am now 32). My brothers and my dad would make this annual trip from the various parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin where we lived at the time and it always started with a big bowl of beer chili the night before the game. Of all the memories that were made in the Dome, including Randy Moss' first two touchdowns from Brad Johnson, Warrick Dunn burning down the sidelines (I hated those Bucs teams), to the run stuffing of one of the greatest in Barry Sanders, my fondest is the Brett Favre pass to Greg Lewis against an up-and-coming 49ers team (on Sept. 28, 2009).

"Of all the the games we went to, this was the first for my mom to join the boys and didn't look so good in the last minute of the game. In fact, we always stayed to the end of the games, no matter the score (because we knew this was the only game we would attend during the year) and boy were we rewarded! In a half-filled stadium, it was ironically the loudest I had ever heard the Metrodome when Favre let fly his pass and completed it to Lewis. We all knew it was a touchdown when it happened since it seemed to happen in slow motion. I will not necessarily miss the dome, but I will miss the annual home opener with family and somehow those memories will be further away when the dome comes down." -- Patrick Hansen, Silver Lake, Kan.




Greenway
"I remember in 2002, when we won the Big Ten title [at Iowa], and our fans tore down the goal posts and tried to take them out the rotating doors. We're good at winning games, but not smart enough to open the doors. It was great. We were handing out roses, because we thought we were going to the Rose Bowl. We ended up going to the Orange [Bowl]. It was a great memory. ... The more I hear about how important the Met [Stadium] was to everybody, I think it'd be cool to go back to an outdoor facility. But I think the state gets a lot more use out of [an indoor facility] for different events -- high school soccer, high school football, all across the board." -- Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway




"I'm just hoping to get a place that has hot water. We have one shower with hot water down there [in the locker room]. There's a line waiting to get a shower." -- Allen




"My first game was the 1997 Vikings-Lions regular-season finale. Although it was a loss (Herman Moore's touchdown grab over Dewayne Washington), the Vikes still made the playoffs and it secured my love for the Purple and Gold. I was so thrilled from my first regular-season game that I set aside money from my high school job at the local Dairy Queen to secure season tickets for 1998. By June of that year, I had earned the $450 for upper-deck seats (section 207). Little did I know that I was entering into one of the most successful regular seasons in the history of the NFL. What an incredible season to have tickets: 8-0 at home during the regular season, tailgating on Washington Avenue, wins against Dungy's Bucs and Favre's Packers, witnessing Randy Moss' record-setting rookie season, and the beginning of what Red McCombs coined "Purple Pride." Despite the heartbreaking outcome of 1998, may SKOL VIKINGS forever echo throughout Minnesota!" --Chris Bell, St. Peter, Minn.





Peterson
Peterson
"My best dome memory? [Breaking the single-game rushing record] is one of them. My first touchdown, that's probably right there in front of it. Both games against Green Bay; last year clinching the playoff berth and [in 2008]. I think I've told the story before: We took the ball, we went for a fourth down, [I] fumbled the ball, they scored. [We] ended up coming back. I think I got the ball every snap, receiving and running, and diving into the end zone and scored and gave us the lead [on a 29-yard touchdown]. So, those are some of the best memories.” -- Vikings running back Adrian Peterson




"Oct. 4, 1992: The Bears had a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter. Jim Harbaugh calls an audible and throws a pick-six sparking the Vikings comeback. [Bears head coach Mike] Ditka was furious, storming up and down the sidelines, throwing stuff. After that, every time the Vikings had a big play or score, they would replay Ditka's fit on the big screen. Vikings won 21-20." -- Doug Anderson, Norwalk, Iowa




"I'm one of the fortunate ones that got to play home and away here for my whole career. Some great memories, some tough memories from the other side. I just always felt when I came over here, it was my home stadium. I felt I had a big advantage here. It was a good run. ... (When I came with the Packers), we felt like we had some really, really good teams coming over here, and just could never, ever communicate because it was so loud. The volume in that stadium, when the fans get rocking, you can't even have a conversation on the sidelines. It wasn't just the snap count or the communication on the field. It's trying to communicate on the sideline to fix something, and you just couldn't do it. We'd always come over here, struggle to communicate and walk out of here with a great team and a loss. It was just a very difficult place for us to travel to. Obviously, it got in our heads a little bit." -- Former Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell, who kicked for the Green Bay Packers from 1997-2005 before playing six seasons with the Vikings.




"I'd recently moved to Minnesota and was a San Diego Chargers fan because they had drafted Iowa kicker Nate Kaeding. [On Nov. 4], 2007, the Chargers were coming to the Metrodome, so I was excited to get to see Nate play in person. I'd been to the dome before for baseball, but never football, and for my first game, I would be a fan of the opposing team. I got seats that would let me watch the Chargers sideline, which put me in optimal position when the Vikings lined up for a long field goal right before halftime. Antonio Cromartie waited in the end zone almost directly below me. I can still see him lean back to catch the short kick in the back of the end zone and just start running. By the time he stopped running in the other end zone, I was on my feet and cheering, earning glares and grumbles from the Vikings fans around me. Those attitudes changed in the second half when the Vikings took control. By the time Adrian Peterson set the single-game rushing record, the Vikings fans around me no longer cared I was cheering for the other team, as they were thrilled about their rookie running back's record and their victory. I would return to the dome a few more times for football, cheering for the Vikings, including the incredibly loud 2008 playoff game against the Eagles, but the game when I was cheering against them was the best." -- Melissa Jackson, Minnetonka, Minn.




"My best one probably was [offensive tackle] Bernard Dafney, before some crucial game. The locker room was all quiet -- everybody was kind of to themselves -- and Bernard Dafney took his pants off and his shoes off to go to the bathroom. A minute later, we heard a big crash -- he had broken the toilet seat. He came out of there walking, water splashing all over the floor. And I think we won that game." -- Former Vikings defensive tackle John Randle, who played 11 seasons with the Vikings and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010."
The Metrodome Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesYes, the Metrodome's roof collapsed in 2010, but more amazing is that it held up as long as it did.

MINNEAPOLIS -- They played two World Series in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, and the same number of Final Fours. Baseball's All-Star Game, the Super Bowl, Pink Floyd and Paul McCartney all made appearances as well. And yet, from a national perspective, the dominant memory might well have originated on Dec. 12, 2010 -- when the roof collapsed a day before a Minnesota Vikings game.

The Teflon-coated roof was one of many engineering quirks that gave the Metrodome a retro-futuristic feel that was equal parts Jetsons and Lite-Brite. My personal favorite was the strict rule against opening any set of double doors at the same time, a fail-safe against altering the air pressure setting that maintained the roof's shape.

That rule was one of many improvised plans that stadium engineers developed and followed to maintain a building that will host its final event Sunday. And it's why Steve Maki and six colleagues found themselves on the roof with fire hoses and a steam connection in the hours before the 2010 collapse.

We'll get back to that incredible instance of homespun maintenance in a moment. First, it's important to know a few facts about the roof.

The original design called for 20 fans of 90 horsepower apiece to maintain inflation from their position at the top of the stadium. Because it was used in a region that receives about 50 inches of snow per year, a system was installed to melt snow accumulation on the roof by shooting hot air between two layers of fabric on the surface.

The roof, however, deflated or ripped three times between 1981 and 1983. According to Maki, who was hired as the Metrodome's top engineer in 1985, the holes providing ventilation were too small to allow in enough hot air to melt snow.

Through trial and error, engineers developed a do-it-yourself routine for removing snow accumulation from the roof. First, they would crank the temperature in the building above 80 degrees. Usually, the rising heat would penetrate the roof and initiate melting. But for more significant occasions, they came up with an emergency plan that seemed stolen from a Rube Goldberg diagram.

Water connections were installed where the concrete structure met the perimeter of the roof. Later, a steam line was added. Fire hoses also were purchased.

If 80 degree heat rising didn't melt the snow, stadium workers would clamber to the roof and connect the hoses to water and steam outputs. Standing on eight-inch cable lines, 150 feet above ground, they pointed hoses and manually melted snow with hot water.

Yes, that's how the Metrodome hosted 300 events a year for more than a quarter century. And it's how it came to be that Maki and six colleagues found themselves on the roof at 10 a.m. Dec. 11, 2010, amid what turned out to be the fifth-largest snowstorm in Minnesota history.

A total of 17.1 inches would fall over a 24-hour period, accompanied by 25 mph winds and sub-zero temperatures. Dressed in snowsuits and ski goggles, Maki and his crew spent nearly eight hours on the Metrodome roof spraying water trying to make a dent in the accumulation.

In 2010, American bioengineers created the first "self-replicating, synthetically designed life." British researchers developed an embryo using DNA from three parents. Astronomers discovered evidence that there could be water on the moon. But in Minnesota, there proved to be no way to prevent snow from collapsing the fabric roof on an NFL stadium.

"We just couldn't make any headway," Maki said. "That storm was a rare occasion of a lot of snow, winds that were really strong and falling temperatures. It was so cold that by the time the water reached the snow, it wasn't hot anymore. Nothing was melting."

Wind gusts were the biggest danger. Fearing his crew could be blown off the roof, Maki pulled them down at 5:30 p.m. The decision meant a catastrophic roof collapse, but Maki said: "The safety of our guys came first, obviously. We had to do it."

Smirk all you want about an NFL stadium kept online by such low-tech methods. (I'm not aware of any use of duct tape, spackle or bubble gum.) If you ask me, it was an engineering miracle that Maki and his group managed to keep the deficient roof inflated for 27 consecutive years.

This was a building erected for $55 million.

With design flaws that were immediately apparent.

Whose tenants began clamoring to get out less than 15 years after it opened.

The Metrodome's legacy? To me, it's that it has a legacy at all. How this building made it 32 years is, well, an engineering feat for the ages.
It stands, at least for a few more weeks, as a monument to sports’ unvarnished past, when stadiums were less about modernistic flourishes (Club seating! Craft beers! TV monitors in every seat!) and more about the games played inside them.

The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome was built first and foremost to house a lot of them -- it is the only U.S. venue to host a Super Bowl, a Final Four, an MLB All-Star Game and a World Series, and in 1989, it was home to three professional teams and a college football team. It had the utility, and the feel, of one of those giant retailer warehouses where you can stock up on jumbo rolls of toilet paper, buy a box of frozen pizzas and find a new set of tires for your car. Its best structural thrills were cheap -- exiting the stadium with a rush of wind at your back as air from the pressurized roof left the building, and watching baseballs ping-pong off the plastic, right-field wall nicknamed "the Hefty Bag" -- but damned if the Metrodome wasn't going to show you a noisy, greasy, rollicking good time.

It managed to do that mostly because of the moments it staged for 31 years. The Fab Five’s first Final Four happened here, five months after Jack Buck immortalized Kirby Puckett’s 1991 World Series Game 6 walk-off homer (“And we’ll see ya ... tomorrow night!”) and Jack Morris threw a 10-inning shutout the next night in Game 7. Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway saw his first baseball game in August of that year, and won a Big Ten championship with the Iowa Hawkeyes 11 years later, when the team’s fans tore down the goalposts after a win against the Minnesota Gophers -- and tried to make off with them through the Metrodome’s revolving doors.

[+] EnlargeJack Morris
AP Photo/Mark Duncan, FileJack Morris threw one of the great games in baseball history on Oct. 26, 1991 in the Metrodome when he shut out Atlanta for 10 innings in a 1-0 victory by the Twins in Game 7 of the World Series.
“We’re good at winning games, but not smart enough to open the doors,” Greenway quipped.

And in 32 seasons, some of the NFL’s most remarkable plays happened under the Dome’s Teflon-coated roof. Tony Dorsett ran for an NFL-record 99-yard touchdown in the Metrodome’s first “Monday Night Football” appearance on Jan. 3, 1983. Adrian Peterson broke the league’s single-game rushing record with 296 yards on Nov. 4, 2007, the same day San Diego’s Antonio Cromartie ran a short field goal back 109 yards for a touchdown. Gus Frerotte hit Bernard Berrian for a 99-yard touchdown on Nov. 30, 2008, and just two months ago, on Oct. 27, Cordarrelle Patterson set a NFL record with a 109-yard kickoff return against the Green Bay Packers, giving the Dome one more historic play in its final season.

I was born in the Twin Cities, and have been watching games at the Metrodome since I was 8 years old and my parents moved our family back to Minnesota after four years in San Diego (that's right -- my dad willingly chose a job transfer out of the finest weather in America and back to a city where it snowed in eight consecutive months from October 2012 to May 2013. As trades involving Minnesota go, this one was only slightly less perplexing than the Herschel Walker deal).

My first trip to the Dome was for a Twins game in August 1991 -- a day before Greenway's, it turns out. The outfield seats were cheap, if not particularly good; we needed binoculars to see home plate, and in that game and many others, my sister would commandeer the binoculars to look for the guy selling the $2 malt cups once the game got out of hand.

The years to come brought trips to the Dome for different reasons. During my freshman year at the University of Minnesota, a couple buddies and I each bought full-season, upper-deck Twins ticket packages for $160 (binoculars not included), and made regular pilgrimages to the stadium for Dollar Dog Night, which, for three college freshmen, was both a bargain and a venue for competition. We saw the Atlanta Braves come to town for the first time since the 1991 World Series, and watched the Twins beat them in what felt like Game 8 -- Cristian Guzman doubled off the Hefty Bag with two out in the 15th inning, and sloth-like catcher Tom Prince scored all the way from first to beat a tag at the plate, sending the three of us out into the pouring rain, taking off our shirts and whipping them above our heads as we sprinted back to our cars. But I was already wet before our euphoric exit from the building; the same deluge outside caused the roof to leak, which meant I spent the 14th-inning stretch with drops of rain falling on my head.

I saw Dwyane Wade and Brandin Knight trade coast-to-coast drives in a wonderful Sweet 16 game between Marquette and Pittsburgh in 2003, sitting with my cousins and my uncle in seats that initially belonged to Ray Romano (it's a long story). And while the Vikings are warning fans not to lift souvenirs from the Metrodome on Sunday, I've already got one, courtesy of the Gophers' collapse during the first game of Tim Brewster's disastrous tenure as the football coach. I had a hunch Brewster was nothing more than a slick-talking salesman, and when the Gophers lost in overtime to Bowling Green on an elementary, flood-right play, reality hit my friends, too, and one of them took it out on the plastic cupholders affixed to the seats that were only pulled out for football games, stomping on it until it broke off.

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
AP Photo/Genevieve RossAdrian Peterson rushed for 199 yards in the regular-season finale last year at the Metrodome, sending the Vikings to the playoffs.
The Vikings memories are vivid, too; mustering up the courage to talk to Emmitt Smith when I was a stringer for the Associated Press in college, sitting in the auxiliary press box and watching Randy Moss flip a no-look lateral over his head to Moe Williams for an incredible hook-and-ladder touchdown in 2003, and covering the climax of Peterson's remarkable 2,097-yard season, when he ran for 199 yards in the Vikings' season-ending, playoff-clinching 37-34 victory against the Packers a year ago.

A few of these memories, I suppose, have something to do with the Dome and its idiosyncrasies, but most of them are about the great players who competed there and the drama they created on the field. That will always be true of sports stadiums, no matter how fancy their accoutrements or how many first-of-their-kind boasts their architects can make. Someday, too, the Vikings' new $975 million palace will be out of date, marked for extinction by the people who are now pining for its grand opening. And in the end, probably sometime in the middle of this century, all that will be left from that place are the memories of grand performers and unforgettable moments.

The Dome got that, on as deep of a level as an inanimate object can. It stood on ceremony for no one, welcomed everyone, and let them witness a little bit of everything -- some good teams, some bad teams, some odd moments and some historic ones.

On its best nights, the Metrodome didn't just send you out its doors with a rush of pressurized air; it urged you out with a rush of adrenaline, spilling you into the streets buzzing about what you'd just seen.

Old or new, that's the best our stadiums can ever do for us. Fans in Minnesota will be lucky if the Dome's successor does that half as well as it did.

Wrap-up: Buccaneers 24, Vikings 20

September, 18, 2011
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Thoughts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' victory against the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome:

What it means: The Bucs were on their way to seeing their season slip away when their offense failed to show up in the first half. The Bucs were down 17-0 at halftime and had only three first downs in the first two quarters. Then, the second half started and Josh Freeman and the offense suddenly started clicking. When’s the last time the Bucs had a quarterback who could fall that far behind and bring them back? They never have.

What I liked: Coach Raheem Morris, who must have given one heck of a halftime speech, and offensive coordinator Greg Olson didn’t give up on the running game after falling behind, like they did in the opener. They kept using LeGarrette Blount and he ended up scoring two second-half touchdowns.

What else I liked: The defensive performance in the second half was pretty remarkable. The defense spent way too much time on the field in the first half. When that happens against Adrian Peterson, it’s usually a formula for disaster. But this young defense stepped up and held the Vikings to a field goal in the second half. Of course, it helped a bit that the offense was doing its job in the second half.

Wide receivers step up: The Bucs have been searching for a No. 2 receiver to complement Mike Williams. It looks like they’re making some progress in this area. Arrelious Benn, who is coming off a serious knee injury, had a touchdown catch and Dezmon Briscoe had four catches for 42 yards.

What’s next: The Bucs host the Falcons next Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.

Photos of Metrodome field emerging

December, 12, 2010
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Metrodome CollapsedAP Photo/Ann HeisenfeltThe Metrodome's Teflon roof collapsed under the weight of snow from a heavy storm that passed through Saturday.
My friend and 1500 ESPN teammate Cory Roufs just posted a wild photograph of the scene inside the Metrodome. There is snow on the field and more appears to be pouring in. Wild stuff. Check it out.

And now, 1500ESPN.com has posted a full photo gallery of the damage.

Awaiting key details on Metrodome roof

December, 12, 2010
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video
By now, you’ve probably heard that the Metrodome’s Teflon roof collapsed overnight. Multiple local media outlets have posted video and photographs, but as you can see here on kare11.com, the roof is completely invisible at eye level and is probably hanging close to the field as we speak.

We don’t know yet how this episode will impact Monday night’s scheduled game between the Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants. The roof has collapsed at least three times before, and the key will be whether the roof is torn or whether the weight of the snow simply caused it to collapse. The former is a more difficult fix than the latter.

For those who are interested, the roof is kept inflated by fans at the top of the structure. When it snows, Metrodome operators heat the building to more than 80 degrees to melt away any accumulation. In extreme situations, workers are stationed on the roof to remove snow with fire hoses and hot water. (I’m not making this up.)

That process was halted Saturday night due to high winds and concerns for the safety of the workers. A little after 6 a.m. ET, the roof collapsed.

This is going to take a while to sort out. When tears were found after a 1982 collapse, four days were needed to repair it. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Sunday morning that the league will address the issue “ASAP.” Options include moving the game to the New Meadowlands Stadium. For those of you asking, I don’t think baseball’s Target Field could be retrofitted for football. But I guess the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium could be an option. Stay tuned.

Dome teams on the road

January, 20, 2010
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As we ramp up coverage for this week’s NFC Championship Game, you’ll hear plenty about the historically anemic road performance of indoor teams.

As you can see in the chart below, teams that play their home games in a dome are 1-11 all-time when playing a championship game on the road. I suppose that doesn’t bode well for Minnesota, which will travel to New Orleans’ Superdome this weekend.

But if you look closer, you can see that only one of those 12 games were played in another dome. That instance came at the end of the 1998 season, when Atlanta upset -- yes, -- the Vikings at the Metrodome.

My own opinion? The Vikings were 4-4 on the road this season. But in relative terms, they are in position to minimize many of the Superdome’s inherent advantages, including the jarring claustrophobia. The facility also has the same FieldTurf playing surface as the Metrodome.

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NFC North

We’re going on a myth-busting crusade this week. On Monday, we addressed the fallacy of prioritizing run defense over pass defense when approaching Minnesota’s offense. Today, I want to take a look at the Vikings’ purported home-field advantage at the Metrodome for Sunday’s divisional playoff game against Dallas.

[+] EnlargeMetrodome
Judy Griesedieck//Time Life Pictures/Getty ImagesThe Vikings were 8-0 at home during the 2009 regular season.
Because it is small, enclosed and, shall we say, wired for sound, the Metrodome’s reputation precedes itself. Some opponents walk into the building believing it will be loud and disruptive, a mental battle the Vikings win even before the opening kickoff.

The Vikings, for their part, were 8-0 at home this season and are 14-2 there in the past two seasons.

But some of us who sit in the Metrodome’s open-air press box have noted long stretches of relative silence from the crowd, depending on the Vikings’ most recent set of plays. It can also be jarring to hear the volume drop off when stadium operators turn off the sound effects. (NFL rules prohibit artificial noise after the play clock starts.) Finally, the Vikings, without question, squandered some of their pregame hysteria when they stopped introducing players individually to the crowd.

So how big of a hurdle will the Cowboys face Sunday? With the help of my friends throughout the statistical world, I poked through the numbers Tuesday. Here’s what we found: Since the Metrodome opened in 1982, the Vikings have the NFL’s third-best home record during the regular season. In the playoffs, however, it’s been about a 50-50 proposition.

In the chart below, supplied by Vikings public relations guru Jeff Anderson, you see the Vikings have won about two-thirds of the 221 regular-season games at the Metrodome.


Most teams play better at home than on the road, but the Vikings have one of the more lopsided ratios in this regard over the past two decades. I reached out to NFC North friend Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders on this issue.

Bill looked at the 15-season period between 1994-2008 and determined the Vikings had an average point differential of 8.45 between home games and those on the road. In the Vikings’ case, they averaged 5.29 points more than their opponents during home games over that period. They had a losing record on the road over the same stretch, scoring an average of 3.16 points less per game than opponents.

According to Football Outsiders, the differential ranked No. 3 in the NFL:

St. Louis: 8.66
Kansas City: 8.49
Minnesota: 8.45
Arizona: 8.24
Denver: 8.19

Not unexpectedly, the postseason is a different story. Opponents are more skilled and battle-tested. The Cowboys, for example, advanced to the playoffs in part because they soundly defeated New Orleans at the Superdome last month.

The Vikings have lost four of their past seven home playoff games, dating back to 1992. Overall, their playoff record is 6-5 at the Metrodome. In other words, they’re about a .500 team since the stadium opened 27 years ago.

So what does all this mean? As usual, it puts us somewhere in the middle. We can’t minimize the impact of playing in the Metrodome over an extended period of time. And we can note that the Cowboys have two players -- offensive tackle Flozell Adams and tight end Jason Witten -- who have combined for 12 false start penalties this season. That would make them exceptionally susceptible to crowd noise.

But I also think we should be careful not to overestimate the value of this dynamic, especially in the postseason. Opponents are usually better equipped to handle such obstacles if they advance to the second round of the playoffs. This game will be won on the field, not in the stands.
 
  Judy Griesedieck//Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
 What’s next for the Vikings and the Metrodome?

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert


Over on the baseball page of ESPN.com, Jim Caple commemorates the historic run of baseball’s Twins in the Metrodome. The Twins will play their final regular-season series in the building this weekend, and they’ll move to Target Field for the 2010 season.

The University of Minnesota already has moved out, having opened TCF Stadium last month. The Twins’ departure leaves the Vikings as the building’s last tenant, raising this fair question: What happens next?

In the short-term, the Vikings are taking steps to make the building more Vikings-oriented. They’ve sold exclusive sponsorships to a pair of gates, and Thursday they sold naming rights to their playing field to the Mall of America.

The Vikings, however, insist they have no long-term future in the building. Their lease expires after the 2011 season, and although their requests for public assistance for a new stadium have been denied thus far, they have started the countdown to their own departure from the Dome. It’s 27 games, including the preseason. It’ll be 26 after Monday night’s matchup against Green Bay.

“The focus and intensity of this issue has increased,” said Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of public affairs and stadium development.

Indeed, the next few years promises to be tense. Thursday, Bagley joined members of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission in discussing the team’s economic impact on the state during a hearing before the House commerce committee. But there is a significant level of frustration that more than 10 years after first raising the issue -- and three years after both the Twins and Gophers received public financing for their new homes -- the Vikings are still stuck in the first stages of stadium politics.

Bagley said the Vikings will decline an option to extend their Metrodome lease this spring, putting the franchise on a collision course with legislators who don’t seem to have an appetite for distributing more public dollars during an economic recession. The Vikings’ current plan calls for a $954 retractable-roof stadium on the site of the Metrodome, for which they are seeking about $700 million in public financing.

Owner Zygi Wilf has said he won’t move the team if he can’t reach a stadium agreement, but Bagley suggested Wilf might sell -- perhaps to a buyer who might move it -- if it comes to that.

“If the state of Minnesota continues to say no, why would you own a team in this market?” Bagley said.

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert


DETROIT -- I guess stranger things have happened, but I haven’t been able to find anyone who can corroborate Major League Baseball’s claims that Minnesota and Green Bay might swap home games to accommodate a potential Twins playoff game Oct. 5 at the Metrodome. (Original post here.)

In fact, I’ve been told by multiple people that a swap isn’t an option at all -- from a logistical or financial standpoint. The Vikings and Packers will play at the Metrodome in Week 4 and at Lambeau Field on Nov. 1

Because the Vikings have scheduling priority over the Metrodome in all cases except for the World Series, one possible solution calls for the Twins to move their potential playoff game to Oct. 5. (The playoff game would only be necessary if the Twins finish the 162-game regular season in a first-place tie in the American League Central, and it would only be at the Metrodome if the Twins win the head-to-head series in their regular season with the team they’re tied with.)

As we touched on Saturday, the Vikings acquiesced scheduling priority to the Twins in 2006 when the possibility existed of a baseball playoff game on the Sunday of a Vikings-Lions contest. In that scenario, the Vikings agreed to push back the timing by one day and play Monday night at the Metrodome if necessary. (Ultimately, the Twins were eliminated from the playoffs and the Vikings-Lions game was played as scheduled.)

For agreeing to push back if needed, the Vikings received $150,000 from the government entity that runs the Metrodome. Had the game actually been moved, the Vikings would have received up to $350,000.

But that was only to move the day of the game, not change locations. Both the Packers and the Vikings would face major logistical hurdles to pull off a home-date swap, not to mention the headaches it would cause to fans who have planned to attend each game.

I suppose something could change, but as of now there is no chance that either Vikings-Packers game is moved this season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

From the "under every rock" category comes this story from Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal. Green Bay officials recently traveled to the campus of Duke University to work out former Blue Devils basketball player Greg Paulus.

It's not clear what position Paulus would potentially play in the NFL, but he was the Gatorade Player of the Year as a high school quarterback in Syracuse, N.Y. He turned down several football scholarships to play basketball at Duke but lost his starting job as a senior and is not projected as an NBA player.

Duke listed Paulus, who played point guard, as 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds,

Paulus could be the type of player who signs a rookie free-agent contract after the draft, an excellent athlete with a football background who is worth a look on the team's terms.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • We spent a lot of time last week discussing Detroit's option to pass on drafting No. 1 overall. But Lions president Tom Lewand seemed to squash that notion Monday during an interview with Detroit-area reporters. According to Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press, Lewand said: "We don't want to comment on any specifics, whether they're logical or illogical."
  • Lewand declined to put a "subjective barometer" on the team's efforts to negotiate contracts with potential No. 1 picks, according to John Niyo of the Detroit News.
  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times reports new left tackle Orlando Pace will wear No. 76. Newcomer Frank Omiyale, who wore that number during minicamp, has taken No. 68.
  • We'll have much, much more on the NFL schedule later Tuesday. But Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune points out that it's impossible for Minnesota to play at home on either of the first two Sundays of the season. The Minnesota Twins already have games scheduled those days at the Metrodome. The best the Vikings can hope for is Monday night home game in Week 2.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

DANA POINT, Calif. -- Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has met with Vikings officials three times in the past month, a sign that the state's top leader has not totally shunned the team's efforts to secure public funds for a new stadium.

It is highly unlikely the talks will lead to a stadium agreement in 2009, meaning the team's Metrodome lease will expire in 2011 with no new facility for the team to move into. But the recent discussions, which were confirmed by a source with knowledge of the situation, were enough for commissioner Roger Goodell to express a small degree of optimism when discussing the issue Monday at the NFL owners' meetings.

I asked Goodell if he felt certain the team would remain in Minnesota beyond the expiration of the lease, regardless of how the stadium situation works out. Goodell's response:

"I think everybody wants the Vikings to be in Minnesota: The leadership in Minnesota and clearly the Vikings and the NFL. I'm hopeful they're going to be able to sit down and have some productive dialogue about how to do that. We recognize the challenges that they're going through in Minnesota and the priorities that they have, and I think we're sensitive to that. But also, the Gophers have a new stadium. The Twins have a new stadium. It's obvious the Vikings need a new stadium. We recognize the governor recognizes the importance of that and I think that there is beginning to be some discussions, which I think is helpful."

Goodell was referring to the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium, which is scheduled to open later this year. The Twins' Target Field will open in 2010.

Part of the issue, of course, is whether the Vikings have any options other than signing a new Metrodome lease in 2011. I'm currently sitting in the part of the country where their best leverage would seem to exist, and I'm planning a more extensive post Tuesday about a town that rhymes with Bos Bangeles. Until then....

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

John Tait's likely retirement puts Chicago in serious shopping mode for a right tackle over the next few months. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times suggests the Bears will need to make a strong push to re-sign veteran John St. Clair, an impending free agent whom they aren't believed to have shown much interest in at this point.

The top tackles of the draft are likely to be off the board when Chicago's No. 18 overall pick arrives in the April draft. That means the Bears probably can't count on a rookie stepping in as an immediate starter and therefore need to have a veteran contingency plan at the position.

Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald also supports the St. Clair re-signing.

If you're interested, we'll bring you a list of free agent right tackles a bit later Monday. For now, let's continue around the NFC North:

  • David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune has a suggestion for bait to acquire Arizona receiver Anquan Boldin: Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. Haugh: "Though Urlacher may have reached the point where his value to the Bears is higher than it would be in a trade, it can't hurt to ask whether Urlacher is still untouchable. My sense is that question would not inspire a unanimous answer at Halas Hall."
  • Minnesota quarterback Gus Frerotte tells the Star Tribune's Sid Hartman that he wants a chance to win the Vikings' starting position if he returns. Frerotte: "A lot of people say, 'Why wouldn't you want to go back there and, if you're not starting, just stand there and watch?' But it's not about that for me. I played a lot with those guys, so I can still play."
  • Minnesota team officials are asking the Minneapolis City Council to allow them to sell more billboards in and around the Metrodome, according to Michelle Bruch of the Downtown Journal.
  • Former Detroit receiver Mike Furrey told a national radio audience that the Lions would anoint Daunte Culpepper their starter in 2009. Later, Furrey backed off the certainty of that comment in an interview with Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com also refutes Furrey's information.
  • Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette looks at the Packers' relatively light set of looming decisions on their pending free agents.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Minnesota owner Zygi Wilf is ramping up efforts to sell his stadium plan as a way to spur job growth and stimulate the local economy, according to reports in the Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Wilf hosted a meeting of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council on Tuesday, hoping to gain its leaders' support in spreading the message. Dick Anfang, the council's president, estimates the project could net $500 million for local contractors and at various times provide jobs to as many as 5,500 people during the four-year construction period.

There are many questions left to be answered about those figures, including whether any of the jobs would be permanent and if the stimulus would compensate for the taxpayer contribution -- expected to be $700 million or more -- the project would require.

Every indication from Minnesota state leaders has suggested the Vikings won't get serious consideration during this year's session of the state legislature. But it's clear Wilf will not go quietly. His stadium point man is already elevating the rhetoric, noting the Vikings have 30 games left on their Metrodome lease (which expires after the 2011 season).

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • There were reports last month that Detroit would hire Bob Slowik as its defensive backs coach. But a report from FOX-13 in Memphis says the Lions have hired University of Memphis defensive coordinator Tim Walton for the job. The Lions have yet to confirm any member of their coaching staff other than coordinators Gunther Cunningham (defense) and Scott Linehan (offense).
  • Via Dave Birkett of the Oakland Press, Rivals.com reports that former University of Washington assistant Tim Lappano will join the Lions as tight ends coach.
  • Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com confirms earlier reports that former Lions offensive coordinator Jim Colletto, demoted last month to offensive line coach, won't return in any capacity. Colletto said he likely will retire. George Yarno has been reported to be the Lions' new offensive line coach.
  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times analyzes whether one of the draft's top quarterbacks could slip to the Bears at No. 18.
  • In an online chat, Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette says he thinks backup tailback Brandon Jackson will get more carries in 2009.
  • Mike Vandermause of the Press-Gazette suggests the Packers freeze ticket prices for 2009. A decision is expected next month.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

The season's biggest game in the NFC North (thus far) is about 12 hours away, and it's too bad we can't rip the roof off the Metrodome. The Twin Cities were dusted with snow overnight and it's still falling Sunday morning. If that isn't the way to potentially decide the Black and Blue title, I don't know what is.

But alas, we'll be indoors to watch Chicago and Minnesota square off for a game that, at the very least, will give one team sole possession of first place in the division and a decided advantage in the title race over the final month of the season.

We'll post some thoughts Sunday afternoon on Green Bay's game against Carolina, and then we'll check in from the Metrodome with pregame updates starting around 6 p.m. ET. In the meantime, get your game face on and take a morning spin with us around the division:

  • The Bears are 2-0 in night games this season, and quarterback Kyle Orton is confident his team is comfortable in the spotlight, according to Nick Hut of the Northwest Herald. "It just seems like we usually show up in these big-time games," Orton said. "Playing at night and everything, we usually show up and play pretty well [2-0 in prime time this season] so hopefully that continues."
  • Thirteen of the 14 sportswriters who pick winners for the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times took the Vikings. The lone holdout was the Tribune's Fred Mitchell.
  • Vikings coach Brad Childress has a player leadership council that includes two members, receiver Robert Ferguson and quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who have played rarely this season. Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune looks at the makeup and function of the group.
  • Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on quarterback Gus Frerotte: "There is no question he provided a spark when he took over for Tarvaris Jackson. But like a utility man in baseball or a sharpshooter off the bench in basketball, that effectiveness diminishes with increased playing time. Opposing teams figure out how to exploit a guy's weaknesses."
  • Can the Packers keep Julius Peppers away from quarterback Aaron Rodgers? That's one of the three biggest questions headed into Sunday's game against the Panthers, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • Green Bay's top offseason priority seems pretty clear, writes the Press Gazette's Rob Demovsky: Defensive line. Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal, meanwhile, notes the Packers are on pace for a franchise-low sack total this season.

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