Friday, December 2, 2016

Dallas Cowboys 17 at Minnesota Vikings 15 - December 1, 2016


After a brief sojourn back to Canada to see the Leafs split their Alberta trip, I returned to the States to add yet another new Club 122 venue to my list. Yet again I found myself in Minneapolis to see the Minnesota Vikings as they finally moved into US Bank Stadium after two seasons in TCF Bank Stadium.



Built on the site of the old Metrodome, US Bank Stadium is similar to its predecessor in being indoors. Other than that, it is entirely different. To begin with, it cost in excess of a billion dollars, over 5 times more than the Metrodome would have in 2016 dollars. The stadium is uniquely designed, looking like a Sandcrawler from Star Wars from the south side.



The exterior is 60% ETFE (ethylene-tetra-fluoro-ethylene, a transparent material, not glass as it appears to be) so you can see into the stadium from both far away and above, which makes for great TV shots during night games. Sunglasses are recommended for day games by the Vikings.



Getting there is easy on the LRT, which has a stop right outside the stadium. Get there early though, as the trains get very crowded, as do nearby bars. I met Eddie and Steve, fellow stadium chasers, at the Day Block, and highly recommend the Korean sandwich served there.



Before entering, you'll want to take a walk around. The main attraction on the outside is the Viking Ship near the main entrance, which makes for a good meeting spot. There are bricks in the ground commemorating Viking feats as well as many smaller bricks bought by fans to celebrate their support or remember a lost loved one. Worth taking a few minutes to look around here, and then walk into the ship itself to find the Vikings history recounted year-by-year.



Enter by the Pentair Gate on the south side of the stadium in order to get a look at some of the club areas. You cannot enter the club seats here without having your ticket scanned, but the hallways are decorated with various works of art that are worth checking out, including one where old football cards are turned into paintings (above). There is also a painting of Prince in a stairwell that is worth a closer look. It is hard to tell from the photo below but the painting is composed entirely of his lyrics.



The hallways are bright and colourful too. Skol means "Cheers" in many Nordic languages and is used in the Vikings cheer song, suitably entitled Skol, Vikings. If you are fortunate, one or more drunken patrons will teach you the lyrics on the train.



Eventually, you will make your way to the seating bowl and that is where you will realize just how big this place really is. I found it overwhelming, much like AT&T Stadium in Dallas, which this resembles in many ways. There are three levels of seating, but as you can see, the lower club level really pushes the upper level seats away from the field. Despite its size, total capacity is only 66,655, 25th in the league.



Fortunately, there are several standing areas, even on the first level, and many fans choose to stay here rather than to sit up high. The shot below is from a standing spot right inside the main entrance, known as the Legacy Gate.



Half of the roof is ETFE, but it is hard to tell from inside, at least when it is dark outside. The design is reminiscent of the hull of a ship as well, only upside down.



The lower concourse is quite tight behind the club seats, and it was starting to get crowded, so I quickly made my way upstairs to the 300 level.



Here is where you will find the new and improved Gjallerhorn (just beneath section 301).



As well, there is a large drum here that I believe is used by the Skol Line, the team's drumline that performs during the game.



There is a club seating area here as well (sections 201-205) that doesn't even show up on the stadium map.



Concourses on the 300 level are tight and can get very crowded after the game. My advice is to move down midway through the fourth quarter and stand near the Legacy Gate for quick egress.



The shot below is from my seat in row 22 of section 302 (face value was $58 plus fees). Truly a nosebleed seat; many fans were exhausted by the time they reached the top rows of these sections. I rested here before the game, but ended up moving down and standing in various spots during the contest.



Large scoreboards are behind each end zone and are obviously state-of-the-art, though again, it is hard to tell from these pictures.



There is no doubt that US Bank Stadium is a top-notch venue and a must visit for any stadium fan. Still, I found it overwhelming in one sense (it is so big that one game might not be enough to see everything) yet underwhelming in other ways (access in particular). I suspect after seeing so many new venues that I have become a bit jaded. I'd like to come back here for a day game sometime to see how the experience differs.

The Game

When the schedule was released, I didn't have high hopes for this one, but the emergence of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott has made the Cowboys the league's best team. Thankfully I bought tickets when they went on sale because the secondary market here was more than twice face value.



It was another "Color Rush" affair in which the teams are dressed in uniforms that are dominated by one shade. Dallas was nicely white, but Minnesota's purple was garish. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was absent due to emergency eye surgery, and after seeing these uniforms, I think he made the right choice.



The first half saw teams move the ball well enough (there was only one 3-and-out in the first half) but the defenses were solid too, bending but not breaking. The Vikings new kicker Kai Forbath notched a field goal in the first quarter, and Elliot (almost certain to be rookie of the year) scored on a 1-yard run in the second as the visitors took a 7-3 lead into the locker room. There were nine penalties in the half, including one on a Dallas interception just after they had scored their TD.

The second half was just as sloppy, with another nine accepted flags, while lengthy reviews just added to the overall sense of incompetence. The Vikings had added two field goals to take a brief 9-7 lead, but Prescott connected with Dez Bryant on an 8-yard score midway through the fourth. A Dan Bailey FG on their next possession gave them an 8-point advantage with 4:20 to go. After Minnesota failed to do anything, Dallas took over with three minutes left, essentially needing just a first down to end things. Prescott ran on a second down play and looked to have the first down, but a very, very, long review declared that he was a yard short. On the next play, a fumbled snap forced the Cowboys to punt and the Vikings still had life. Sam Bradford marched the team 65 yards, completing 7 of 8 passes including a 3-yard touchdown to Jerick McKinnon. Down 17-15, the Vikes needed a 2-point conversion, but a false start penalty pushed the ball back to the 7-yard-line and Bradford's pass sailed out of the end zone. The onside kick failed and the Cowboys escaped with the win to go to 11-1 on the season, while Minnesota dropped to 6-6, a bitter pill to swallow after their 5-0 start.



This was not a terrible game like the one I saw in Los Angeles a month back; this was an entertaining defensive battle, whereas the Rams-Panthers tilt was crap offense. Still, penalties really hurt both teams and were frustrating to watch. I can't imagine how the coaches must feel.

Notes

I still have the Sacramento Kings new arena, Golden 1 Center, to complete the new Club 122 venues and I'll be going there in mid-January to check that one off.

Next Up

I'm spending a couple of days in Michigan, first to see the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL and then a Michigan State doubleheader with hoops in the afternoon and volleyball in the evening. Check back next week for recaps.

Best,

Sean

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