Notebook: Home-field advantage? Cold hasn't helped Vikings recently
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings plan to hold a walkthrough practice at TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday morning to get used to the field and the surroundings.
It'll also be their first taste of just how cold they might be on Monday night against the Chicago Bears.
Preliminary forecasts suggested the temperature could be in single-digits, with negative wind chills, by the 7:30 p.m. kickoff. As of Friday night, weather.com projected the overnight low at 17 degrees with a 60% chance of snow.
Either way, it'll be one of the coldest games in recent memory for a Vikings franchise that will be celebrating its 50th anniversary -- and a history that includes four NFC championships from 1969 to '76 while the team was playing outdoors at Metropolitan Stadium.
"Look at these banners," Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier said on Friday, pointing to the rafters of the team's Winter Park practice facility.
"That's a testament to home-field advantage. Teams from the west having to come here, whether it was L.A. or it was Dallas -- they are part of why those banners are up here. It's a home-field advantage."
That changed when the Vikings moved indoors, though, and cold-weather results haven't been kind since. They've lost seven of their past eight games under subfreezing temperatures (below 32 degrees Fahrenheit) and are 5-12 in those conditions since the Metrodome opened in 1982.
"We all understand it's going to be cold," cornerback Antoine Winfield said. "There's no way around that, but they have heated benches on the sidelines. Try to get over there get you a coat. But you have to stay into the game."
According to 1500ESPN.com research of box scores, the Vikings' only cold-weather win in the past 11 seasons came on Jan. 9, 2005, when they beat the Green Bay Packers 31-17 in a game played with a game-time temperature of 23 degrees and a wind chill of 13.
The Vikings lost 27-14 a week later at Philadelphia (29 degrees, 20 wind chill). Since, they've lost 23-13 at Chicago on Dec. 3, 2006 (14, 1); 22-19 at Denver on Dec. 30, 2007 (24, 12); and 36-30 at Chicago on Dec. 28, 2009 (23, 9). The last two were in overtime.
If the wind chill does drop below zero by kickoff on Monday, it'll be only the fourth time the Vikings have faced that since 1982. The others were at Green Bay on Dec. 11, 1988 (6 degrees, minus-7 wind chill); at Cleveland on Dec. 17, 1989 (2, minus-15); and at Green Bay on Dec. 30, 2001 (13, minus-2). They lost all three.
The Vikings' last outdoor home game was a 10-6 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at the Met on Dec. 20, 1981 -- 19 years to the day before they'll face the Bears.
Frazier addressed the weather and the condition of the playing surface in a Thursday morning team meeting and is confident players for the most part are over their initial concerns.
"Once you start playing, you block everything out," Frazier said. "You just start focusing on your assignment, and then you just go play. When you're watching it on TV or you're in the stands, you say, 'Man, how can they do it?' But when the adrenaline's flowing, you're focused on what you've got to do."
Vikings punter Chris Kluwe hasn't minced words about his frustration with the venue.
Perhaps on the verge of earning his first Pro Bowl berth, Kluwe not only will have to deal with cold and wind on Monday -- he'll have to deal with Chicago's Devin Hester, who had three big returns in the teams' first meeting on Nov. 15 at Soldier Field.
That included a 42-yard return on a Kluwe boot that hung 4.5 seconds and nearly reached the sideline. Aided by several borderline-illegal blocks -- Kluwe later posted on his Twitter page the NFL admitted it missed a call -- Hester got free for easily the longest return against the Vikings this season.
The combination of wind (affecting directional punts) and a potentially slick field (affecting coverage players' footing) could give Hester a chance to do more damage on Monday.
"That's one of the big things that we have to look out for," Kluwe said, "because in poor conditions, usually, the advantage is to whoever has the ball and knows what move they're going to make, because other guys are going to react to it. Game plan-wise, I can't really talk about what we're doing, because we don't want to give it away. But we're going to try to keep the ball out Hester's hands as much as possible."
Vikings cornerback Asher Allen was fined $5,000 for unnecessary roughness in Monday's game against the Giants, while Giants end Osi Umenyiora was fined $12,500 for roughing the passer.
Allen dipped his head and drove a shoulder into Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw's back in the second quarter, drawing a 15-yard penalty.
Umenyiora also was penalized 15 yards for what officials called a helmet to helmet hit on Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson in the fourth quarter. A league spokesman said Umenyiora "unnecessarily struck the quarterback in the head and neck area."
• Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell acknowledged his game plan will be stripped down this week for rookie QB Joe Webb and backup QB Patrick Ramsey, who signed on Wednesday. "Either guy is in the beginning stages of learning the offense," Bevell said. "It's something we need to take into account, how much they know and what they'll be able to do. Each one has different skill sets, so you try to use that to our advantage."
• Special teams coordinator Brian Murphy didn't openly disagree with the call, but he praised MLB Jasper Brinkley for the block officials flagged on Monday, wiping out Lorenzo Booker's 96-yard kick return touchdown. "I will say this to you -- it's a tough spot for Jasper, and it's a tough spot for the official to make the call," Murphy said. "I will say this -- on that play, Jasper made an extremely good hustle play to get out in front of the ball. It was a heck of a play by him to get there. It was a judgment call that didn't go in our favor. Take nothing away from Jasper Brinkley, because he made his block plus one that sprung that. Can't take that away from him."
• Winfield was named to the USA Football/NFL Players Association All-Fundamentals Team, honoring players' ability "to consistently execute the fundamentals of their positions and for making a positive impact in their communities."