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Continued: Home field is clear advantage for Vikings

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 13, 2010 - 11:43 PM

There is a lot of talk about how the Vikings are going to face one of the hottest teams in the NFL on Sunday when they play host to the Cowboys. But one thing in the Vikings' favor is that they are unbeaten at home and have played some of their best football there.

"There's so many positives, offensive, defense, special teams, to be 8-0 here in the Dome, to know that fans never came to a losing effort. I just think that's a huge positive for the state of Minnesota, for coaches, ownership, everybody," Vikings coach Brad Childress said.

The Vikings capped their 8-0 mark at home with an impressive and much-needed 44-7 victory over the New York Giants on Jan. 3. Looking back at that game, Childress said: "Yeah, you know what, [the fans] raised the roof off of that place, and I think it's a great home-field advantage. I can only hope that as we head to the playoff's here that we make it absolutely ridiculous for anybody to come in here, and hopefully we can play two here."

If you check the scores of the Vikings home games, there were only two close games: the home opener against the 49ers on Sept. 27, when the Vikings won 27-24 on Brett Favre's desperation 32-yard touchdown pass to Greg Lewis, and the game against the Ravens on Oct. 18, when the Vikings won 33-31 because Baltimore's Steve Hauschka missed a 44-yard field goal as time expired.

Otherwise, the Vikings beat the Packers 30-23 in a game where the result was never really in doubt in the second half, and the other five, over the Lions, Seahawks, Bears, Bengals and Giants, were no contest.

One positive factor for the Vikings was after the week off, all the players reported back Sunday with fresh legs. Childress believed the week off was especially helpful to receiver Bernard Berrian, who has been ailing most of the season.

"There's no downside to having a bunch of fresh legs out there moving around," Childress said.

The rest might have also been most important for rookie receiver Percy Harvin, who said Wednesday that he is no longer having migraine headaches and denied that he ever had a problem with disks in his neck, even though he apparently reported that to NBC reporter Andrea Kremer. Plus, as Childress noted, Harvin seems to have an extra gear when he's running around on the artificial turf.

Asked about the Vikings' three December losses -- at Arizona, Carolina and Chicago -- Childress said: "I don't know if there's a common thread through all those games. One was inside, one was outside in the cold, all of them were on grass.

"I looked at that as an advantage as we started the year, that all of our road games were on grass, I don't think we knew what time they were all going to start, that they're all going to be night games, but we've been not too bad over the course of time going on the road and we only have ourselves to blame, whether it was turnovers or not showing up with the right mind."

Cowboys finished fast

While the Vikings lost three of their final five games, the Cowboys finished strong. They enter Sunday's game on a four-game winning streak.

That streak started with what is perhaps Dallas' most impressive victory of the season, beating the previously undefeated Saints in New Orleans 24-17 on Dec. 19. They then beat the pitiful Redskins in Washington 17-0 before their two decisive home victories over the Eagles, one to end the regular season and the other to start the playoffs.

Before the winning streak, the Cowboys went through a rough stretch similar to the Vikings. They lost at Green Bay 17-7, then won two home games over subpar teams, beating Washington 7-6 and Oakland 24-7. They then lost on the road to the Giants 31-14 and at home to the Chargers 20-17.

The big question that will be answered Sunday is have the Vikings really returned to their early-season form, considering their second-half play at Chicago and their dominant victory over the Giants, a team that had nothing to play for? There's no question about the quality of the Cowboys' victories, since New Orleans was undefeated and Philadelphia was playing for a first-round bye in the Week 17 meeting and their playoff lives a week later.

Jottings

Leslie Frazier, the Vikings defensive coordinator who interviewed for the Buffalo coaching job during the bye week, said he can't talk to Bills officials now that the Vikings are preparing for a playoff game. But he said he had a good interview and hopes to hear from them once the Vikings season is over.

Gophers football coach Tim Brewster said rumors that have offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch going to either the Bears or Redskins and offensive line coach Tim Davis joining Lane Kiffin at Southern California are not true. Brewster said for the first time since he got here in 2007, he will have the same coordinators and other assistant coaches in back-to-back seasons. However, West Coast reports have Davis joining Kiffin in USC as his offensive line coach.

Doug Risebrough, the former Wild president and general manager, made his first trip to Xcel Energy Center as a scout for the New York Rangers on Monday since being fired last year. Risebrough said that looking back, he was really surprised when he got his walking papers following the season. "I didn't expect that," he said. On another subject, he said that anybody who believed he was going to fire coach Jacques Lemaire had he not resigned on his own is wrong. Risebrough spends most of his time in Palm Springs, Calif., and scouts Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings games in southern California.

Three Gophers hockey recruits are among the scoring leaders in the United States Hockey League. Erik Haula is the USHL's fourth-leading scorer with 15 goals and 28 assists in 31 games for Omaha; Ryan Walters is eighth with 11 goals and 25 assists in 32 games for Des Moines; and Nate Condon is tied for 19th with 16 goals and 11 assists in 32 games for Fargo. ... Former Edina standout Anders Lee, a Notre Dame recruit, is 14th in USHL scoring with 15 goals and 17 assists for Green Bay.

Former Gopher Phil Kessel is in a scoring slump for the Toronto Maple Leafs. In his past 13 games, he has one goal and two assists and has a plus/minus of minus-8. On the season, he has 14 goals and 10 assists in 35 games since returning from a shoulder injury Nov. 3.

Eric Dungy, son of former Gophers quarterback and NFL coach Tony Dungy, is a highly recruited football player after playing high school ball in Tampa, Fla. He could be headed to South Florida.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • shartman@startribune.com

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