On Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings will play in their home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Vikings, looking for their first win of the season, will have some help on their side that they haven't had since December 12th last season: a true home crowd.
Sunday marks the first time the team will play at Mall of America Field since heavy snow tore through the roof late last season, forcing the team to move their final two home games. The Vikings are not only hoping for a win, their hoping to regain some normality.
Last season was a huge disappointment for the Vikings. After losing the NFC Championship to the Saints in January, the Vikings returned their entire team of starters, including quarterback Brett Favre, for what seemed to be another shot at a Super Bowl. They couldn't have been more shocked with their results.
For starters, last season turned out to be a circus. There was the usual Brett Favre media circus that reached its peak when Jared Allen, Steve Hutchinson and Ryan Longwell took a day off of practice to fly down to Mississippi to get the old gunslinger. Then, there was the media circus involving Brett Favre and some inappropriate pictures he supposedly sent to a sideline reporter when he was with the Jets.
Then came the Randy Moss debacle. During their bye week, the team traded away a third round pick to the New England Patriots for the wide receiver to make his return to the team that drafted him. This couldn't have been any more of a train wreck. Moss played a handful of games before the team could no longer handle his antics and released him.
To go along with the distractions was the losing. For the most part, the team was competitive; losing several games by less than one score and squeezing out a couple victories. Then, came a 31-3 loss at home to the Green Bay Packers that changed the franchise. Literally.
Following the Green Bay loss, then-head coach Brad Childress was fired and replaced by current head coach Leslie Frazier. While Childress was 3-7 with the team, Frazier was able to go 3-3 with the team, enough to earn him the head coaching position. And while Childress had a couple of big headaches in Brett Favre and Randy Moss, Frazier had a couple obstacles of his own.
The team was hit with multiple injuries throughout last season, but the biggest injury came in December. The Vikings were supposed to host the New York Giants, but a massive amount of snow broke through the roof, forcing the Vikings to reschedule. The rescheduled "home" game took place at Ford Field in Detroit and the Giants crushed the Vikings.
The last home game of the season was in Minnesota, at TCF Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Much like the game in Detroit, the Vikings were destroyed by the Chicago Bears and showed very few signs of even trying in that game. The final two "home" games helped be the fitting end to a sad and pathetic season.
This year, the roof and the turf have been replaced, and the Vikings return home coming off a tough loss to the San Diego Chargers, in which they gave up a 10-point lead and compiled only 39 passing yards. If they still want to be competitive in the NFC North, what has become one of the toughest divisions in the NFL, they are going to have to get back to their winning ways at home.
Tampa Bay enters this game after a home opener loss to the Detroit Lions, in which both the offense and defense looked over-matched. The Vikings will look to get their passing game on track against the Buc's young defense. If the defensive line can win the match-up at the line of scrimmage look for the Vikings to put on a show in their 2011 home opener/homecoming.