TWENTYMAN: The Lions won't miss the Metrodome

Posted Dec 28, 2013

Since 1982 when the Metrodome opened, the Lions are just 7-23 in Minneapolis

Winning on the road in the NFL is tough business, but there are certain stops along the NFL circuit that seem more difficult than others.

For the Detroit Lions, No. 1 on that list has to be Lambeau Field in Green Bay. A close second, however, could be Mall of America Field/Metrodome.

The Vikings have defeated the Lions in 14 out of the last 15 meetings at the Metrodome. The only Lions win over that that span came in overtime in 2011 when the Lions won 26-23.

Sunday's game between the Lions and Vikings will be the final game played at the Metrodome, as the historic dome will be torn down so construction can begin on the Vikings' new stadium, which should be ready by the 2016 season.

"I was on the staff at the University of Minnesota for a year and we played our home games there," Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. "It's a loud stadium. It's one of the loudest places in the NFL. It always gave me a headache when that horn or whatever it is blew.

"You think about the Metrodome and you think of their Viking mascot on the motorcycle and you smell the fumes on the field and the crowd is loud and it's always a tough game. It's an NFC North game."

Schwartz has been a part of a couple of these kinds of games over his coaching career and knows how special the atmosphere can be for the home team.

"They are going to try there very best to come out with a win," he said. "I've been a part of closing a couple stadiums. I was on the Cleveland staff when we closed Cleveland Stadium/Municipal Stadium. I was with the Ravens when we closed Memorial Stadium.

"There is always a different atmosphere there. The fans are nostalgic and there are video montages and things like that. The home team wants to come out with a win in their last home game in a stadium like that. We want to do our very best to keep them from doing that."

Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan spent three seasons in a similar role with the Minnesota Vikings from 2002-04 and told the story of his best memory of the Metrodome.

"My favorite play was the Randy Moss no-look pass on a last play before the half," he said. "It's one of the greatest plays that I never saw because Moss caught a pass at the end of the half, we were playing Denver, and had no timeouts left and couldn't stop the clock and he caught the ball on the 10-yard line.

"The half was over and I was extremely disappointed we didn't have a chance to get the points. I didn't see the play. I was walking out the door not very happy and the loudest sound I ever heard was when Moe Williams was trailing him and (Moss) flipped the ball over his shoulder and scored.

"It ended being a big point in a tough game. I never saw it. He caught it at the 10 and we couldn't stop the clock. I put my stuff down and was fairly angry and was walking out."

Lions receiver Nate Burleson spent his first three seasons in the NFL with Minnesota from 2003-05. His first and only career 1,000-yard season came as a Viking in 2004.

"My first time going to the locker room I had no idea were I was," Burleson said of his first game-day experience in 2003 during his rookie season. "I was just walking around aimlessly taking flights of stairs and was literally lost.

"One security guy there was like, 'Burleson, the locker room is this way.' I was like, 'thanks, man.' He just looked at me and said, 'rookie.' It was like a movie."

The Vikings are currently 23-7 against the Lions since the Metrodome opened in 1982. The Lions didn't play in Minnesota in 1982, however, because of the players strike that reduced the season to nine games.

"The atmosphere is like no other," Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said of the Metrodome in a conference call this week. "It is always jam packed and the fans are awesome and just a great supporting group. There are so many memories.

"I can think back to 1996 and I think about 2009 when we had (Brett) Favre and he hit Greg Lewis in the back of the end zone. Just an amazing throw and the catch was spectacular. There are so many great memories."

The Vikings are hoping to make one more come Sunday.

The Lions are left to play the spoiler role after being eliminated from the playoffs last week. They want to finish their season on good note and get to .500 at 8-8.

A few historical moments at the Metrodome:

  • The first Final Four appearance by Michigan's Fab Five happened there.
  • Tony Dorsett ran for a NFL-record 99-yard touchdown in the Metrodome's first "Monday Night Football" appearance on Jan. 3, 1983.
  • Kirby Puckett's 1991 World Series Game 6 walk-off homer and Jack Morris' 10-inning shutout gem the next night in Game 7.
  • The Metrodome is the only venue to host a MLB All-Star Game (1985), a Super Bowl (1992), an NCAA Final Four (1992 & 2001), and a World Series (1987 & 1991).