The Vikings have played 453 regular-season home games. They’ve won 63.8% of them (275-156-4), which exceeds the 55% to 60% that’s typical of NFL home teams.
Now in their 60th season, they’ve started 0-3 at home just four times: 1962, their second season; 1967, Bud Grant’s first season; 1972, the year Fran Tarkenton returned; and 2020, the year a nasty global pandemic prevented fans from attending.
Never have the Vikings started 0-4 at home. Their worst start was 0-3-1 in 1967.
But that could change Sunday when the Lions visit U.S. Bank Stadium. Detroit is 3-4, but 3-1 on the road.
“I talked to the team about [winning at home] this week,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “It’s unfortunate that we don’t have our fans there. And the last time we played in the stadium, it was completely dead.”
So dead that it gave life to a winless Falcons team that had just fired its head coach. Atlanta jumped on top 23-0 en route to a 40-23 victory.
Two weeks later, the Vikings came out of their bye and upset the Packers at Lambeau Field while being forced to play seven rookies on defense.
Nothing about NFL stadiums has felt right during this COVID-19 season. Not Week 1, when Aaron Rodgers used a hard count in the silence of U.S. Bank Stadium to get the Vikings to jump offside three times on third-and-short. And not Week 8, when Dalvin Cook did the Lambeau Leap and then just sat there with no Cheeseheads around to douse him with beer and shove him back onto the field.
The Packers played four days later at San Francisco. They won 31-17, dropping the combined record of all home teams this season to 59-60-1.
Four teams are winless at home — Jets and Falcons (0-4), and Vikings and Lions (0-3).
Thirteen teams have a better record on the road. Kansas City and Baltimore are a combined 7-0 on the road and 5-3 at home.
Four teams have winning records on the road and losing records at home. Besides Detroit, San Francisco is 3-1 on the road and 1-4 at home; Denver is 2-1 on the road and 1-3 at home; and the Raiders are 3-1 on the road and 1-2 at their new home in Las Vegas.
The Vikings are 2-2 on the road. But now they play four of their next five at home.
“We need to bring our own energy, we need to bring our own excitement, we need to play like the fans are there,” Zimmer said. “And hopefully they can do it through osmosis or something, but we need to go out and play well and play physical. Play smart and get a win.”
The Lions have scored first in each of their four road games. They even led the Packers 14-3 after one quarter before losing 42-21 in Week 2.
Since then, Detroit is 3-0 on the road, beating Arizona 26-23, Jacksonville 34-16 and Atlanta 23-22. The Lions led the Cardinals 3-0 and 10-7, the Jaguars 7-0 and 24-3, and the Falcons 7-0.
“We need to, from the moment we get [to U.S. Bank Stadium], bring the energy,” Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “And then, the best way to have energy and avoid being flat is to play well — start fast and then sustain that throughout the game.
“The Lions have started fast, I think, in every game they’ve had this year. So that will be a challenge for us to come up against that and try to get our first home win.”
The Year of COVID-19 has emphasized what the fans have meant to the Vikings over the years, particularly on defense.
From 1961-81, the Vikings ruled Met Stadium with a 90-56-4 regular-season record. From 1982-2015, they were 162-88 at the Metrodome. Since then, they’ve been 23-12 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
They also were 11-6 at TCF Bank Stadium and 1-0 in a game at old Memorial Stadium.
The last time the Vikings had a losing record at home was 2011, when Leslie Frazier’s team went 1-7 to tie the 1984 team for worst home record in franchise history.
“We got so used to all the juice that comes with playing at U.S. Bank with all our fans and getting it real loud,” said safety Harrison Smith. “But that’s just not how it is right now. We have to create our own. … As players, that’s on us.”