The Minnesota Vikings allowed a stingy 100 points at home this year. Just 100.
That equates to a paltry 12.5 points per game.
No team scored more than 19 against them.
And the total could have easily been lower, if not for three meaningless, late-game touchdowns by the New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals amidst blowout wins. It was the fourth consecutive year the home defense has improved after bottoming out in 2013.
“The turf, the surface feels fast, even the lighting in there,” said quarterback Case Keenum of U.S. Bank Stadium, Minnesota’s home for the last two seasons, “and then you add the fans pregame and just the whole atmosphere in there, it’s incredible. Our fans are awesome.
“All my friends and family that have come up from Texas, my friends from other teams that come in text me after the games and they’ll be like, ‘Dude, that place is ridiculous.’”
But the defensive effort at U.S. Bank Stadium, invigorated surely by one of the rowdiest home crowds in the league, could not quite elevate itself above Minnesota’s greatest home defense since the institution of the 16-game schedule: the 1998 Vikings.
Yes, those ’98 Vikings.
Known for their record-breaking offense led by Randall Cunningham, Randy Moss, Cris Carter and Robert Smith, many forget about the talented defense anchored by John Randle and complemented by opportunistic defensive backs like Robert Griffith, Corey Fuller and Jimmy Hitchcock.
The Vikings finished sixth in points allowed that year and 13th in yards allowed. Not bad.
But the home defense, specifically, was nearly impenetrable.
The 1998 Vikings allowed just 93 points at home that year compared to 203 points on the road. On average, that equates to 11.6 points per game allowed at the raucous Metrdome; 25.4 elsewhere.
Over the course of that season, an 11.6 ppg average would have led the league, while 25.4 would have ranked the Vikings 27th.
At the Dome, those Vikings allowed 3.5 yards per carry, 5.2 yards per pass attempt and sacked the quarterback 28 times. On the road, they permitted 4.5 ypc, 7.0 y/a and sacked the quarterback 11 times.
The 2017 Vikings? They’ve given up 2.8 ypc at home, 5.5 y/a and have 24 sacks. Their road totals: 4.3 ypc, 5.7 y/a and 13 sacks.
Zimmer explained the home edge, which helped Minnesota hold opponents under 250 yards per game this year at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“If a guy’s a little late off the snap count,” said Zimmer, listing off benefits. “The clock’s going down and they’ve got to get the play called. You’re not going to get the hard counts typically. So, there’s some advantages.”
While the 1998 and 2017 home defenses were stellar, neither can hold a candle to the Purple People Eaters of yore, who feasted on offenses when the Vikings played outdoors at Metropolitan Stadium.
Between 1969-76, when all teams played one fewer home game, the Vikings had seven defenses that held opponents below 100 points for the season on their home turf. Five of those units had a better points against average than the 1998 team, highlighted by the 1971 squad that surrendered a mere 53 points in seven regular season home games.
That team lost to Dallas, however, in its first playoff game.
Today’s Vikings hope to avoid the same fate when they face the Saints on Sunday.