The last time the Vikings hosted a home playoff game outside, it was at the conclusion of the 1976 season. That year turned out to be the Last Great Run of the fabled Purple People Eaters, who went 11-2-1, beat the then (and future?) Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship, and advanced to Super Bowl XI against the Oakland Raiders.
I don't remember how that last game turned out, if we're being honest with each other.
In 1976, I was 9 years old, living in Richfield, right across the street from Central Elementary and Richfield High School. To me, the Vikings were larger than life, and they had the biggest home field advantage in the NFL. Between the weirdness of Met Stadium--the field barely fit into the baseball stadium layout, the teams were on the same sideline, and the scoreboard had more lights burned out than actually worked, I think--it was a House of Horrors for opponents, and the winter weather was a key factor in that horror.
And once again, the winter weather will be a big factor for a home playoff game. And much like the teams from that bygone era, this team is built for this weather. Let's take a look
Solid Defense. When healthy, this defense is tough to move the ball on. So many casual fans and 'experts' are looking at the first game these two teams had and say 'Seahawks gonna boatrace the Vikings again'. What a lot of people like to conveniently overlook is that the top three defenders for the Vikings--LB Anthony Barr, S Harrison Smith, and NT Linval Joseph--were out or missed large portions of the game. Joseph was inactive, while both Barr and Harrison were injured early in the first quarter and didn't return. This front four isn't quite at the level of the Purple People Eaters, but there are similarities there. If Joseph is healthy, they are strong from left to right, and can generate a relentless pass rush. The linebackers are fast and athletic, can pursue laterally and get to the point of attack, and are solid tacklers. In the secondary, the corners play aggressively, and the safeties are hard hitting.
The defense Seattle will see Sunday will not be the same defense they saw the first time around, and they will not come close to the 38 points they scored in the last meeting, that I can promise you.
Running Game. We can go back and forth on whether or not this is Teddy Bridgewater's offense or Adrian Peterson's, and whether or not the Vikings should operate primarily out of the shotgun or not, but the bottom line in all of this is that the Vikings have the best running back in football, and come Sunday, I think they will have a distinct advantage. Marshawn Lynch is coming back for Seattle, true, but he hasn't played in almost two months, and the first time he touches the ball it will be below zero, and those hits, in that weather, will take a toll. Adrian Peterson, on the other hand, has been playing, and playing effectively. I think the Vikings will have a distinct advantage running the ball on Sunday, although I might be the only one. Back in the day, the Vikings had Chuck Foreman, who was, at the time, the best running back in football, and was an elusive yet hard nosed runner, much like Peterson.
Effective short passing game. One of the more frustrating things I've watched this season is the Vikings passing offense. What normally happens is that they come out with short to mid level passes, generally crossing patterns over the middle, and they're very effective at moving the ball and keeping the defense off balance. Then, sometime in the second quarter, they start to stretch the field with deep patterns, the passing game stalls, and meh. If the Vikings can stay with the short game, run the ball well between the tackles, they'll be fine offensively. Back in that 1976 season, Minnesota's short passing game was the best in the NFL, again centered around Chuck Foreman. Peterson is nowhere near the caliber of receiver out of the backfield that Foreman was, but Jerick McKinnon has really come on in the last couple weeks, and while the 2015 Vikings don't have the better starting receivers than the old school team, I do believe they have more depth, and more options for Teddy to throw to,
Weather. Finally, the weather itself. Call me nostalgic, but I think this is a distinct advantage for the Vikings. When you live in it and play in it, you adapt, and it's not nearly the mental hurdle to climb as it is for someone not used to it. Back in the day, going to Minnesota in December was something the rest of the teams in the NFL dreaded. This level of cold is uncomfortable to even be outside in, much less play a game of football in. Yes, it will affect both teams, but with the emergence of Seattle's passing game in recent weeks and the advantage Minnesota will have running the ball, I think this will affect Seattle more.
When you add the weather, a bit of mental overconfidence on Seattle's part (look, I don't care what they're saying, they're all thinking how they manhandled the Vikings last time and think this will be a cakewalk), the fact that the Vikings are finally healthy defensively, and how the Vikings are just being out and out dismissed as any kind of post season threat...I really like how things are lining up for the Fighting Zimmers on Sunday.
Skol Vikings, beat the 'Hawks.