The head coach of the Minnesota Vikings enjoys your juice, particularly the enthusiasm on display during his first game as an NFL coach.
The Vikings dominated, relatively speaking, the Green Bay Packers in Week 1, snuffing out the primary rival 23-7 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
After the game, O’Connell told reporters about Vikings fans’ contribution, “They lifted the energy even more.”
And restoring homefield advantage to U.S. Bank Stadium is vital for the Vikings, a team renewing all-in Super Bowl stakes arguably for the seventh season in a row. Minnesota’s glass palace opened in 2016, and from inception to the end of the 2019 season, U.S. Bank Stadium was a fortress of winning for the home team. But from 2020 to 2021 — Mike Zimmer’s final two campaigns — homefield advantage wholly vanished.
From 2016 to 2019, the Vikings won 72.7% of games at home — the second-best percentage in the NFL behind the Tom Brady-led New England Patriots. Yet, in 2020 and 2021, that handsome ratio plunged to 50%, which ranked 17th in the league during the timeframe. Overall, the Vikings stadium was a place of dominance during its first four years but became an edifice of mediocrity, much like Minnesota’s gridiron product on the whole.
If Sunday was a reasonable indicator, though, the Vikings might be on the way back to homefield supremacy. Raucous fans showered the field with noise on defensive third downs, popped when the Vikings scored on offense, and generally screamed louder than any game since 2019. Folks were rejuvenated. Fans brought the juice.
It worked. The Packers showed frustration all day, led by Aaron Rodgers, who was visibly grumpy for three hours. Rodgers also turned the ball over twice, a sinful departure from the norm for the future Hall of Famer.
Moreover, if O’Connell can encourage fans to continue the useful madness at home, Minnesota has a total of nine home games, seven true road games, and one neutral-site showdown in England. Playing nine home games is an inherent schedule advantage, which would be “all of nil” if the Vikings executed their 2020 and 2021 dirty little mediocre homefield tricks.
The place was loud. Minnesota’s skipper liked it. The Vikings won. You brought the juice.
Do it again.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).