CARSON, Calif. — The assumption that a Vikings fan base that has traveled tremendously all season would do so again on the final roadie of the 2019 regular season turned into a reality on Sunday in Los Angeles.
Dignity Health Sports Park became the winter home away from the confines of U.S. Bank Stadium for the Vikings in a 39-10 victory over the Chargers.
Minnesota improved to 10-4, maintaining its status as the No. 6 seed in the NFC Playoffs if the season ended today.
The Vikings will host the NFC North-leading Packers (11-3) on Monday Night Football Dec. 23 and the Bears (7-7) on Dec. 29. Chicago was eliminated from postseason contention with its loss at Green Bay and Minnesota's win.
Pre-game question: Could Vikings fans make it more like a home game for Minnesota than Los Angeles?
As mentioned above, yes, the purple again came out in droves, filling an estimated 80 to 90 percent of the seats at the Chargers temporary home.
Some fans were taking advantage of a December destination with a blue and cloudless sky, warm sun and palm trees swaying in the breeze. Others were folks who live in So Cal but have allegiances to the North for multiple reasons.
All were happy to see the 13th regular-season meeting between the franchises – and first in Los Angeles – sway in Minnesota's favor.
A sea of repeated SKOL Chats, and even chants of "DE-FENSE!, DE-FENSE!" when the Chargers had the ball, broke out during the game, and the Vikings didn't encounter some of the usual challenges that can happen on the road.
Instead, it was the Vikings fans who had a bearing on the game, helping Minnesota become the first team to ever win consecutive matchups in the series.
The first instance was because a lack of crowd noise on Minnesota's first offensive series enabled clear and concise communication.
The Vikings crisply drove 75 yards on 10 plays, staying ahead of the chains and involving seven different receiving options/runners on the way to Kirk Cousins connecting with TE Irv Smith, Jr., on a 1-yard touchdown pass a play after Kyle Rudolph drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone.
It didn't seem like the offense ever had difficulty communicating, despite a robust speaker system for the public-address announcer. Minnesota also minimized the impact of edge rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram III.
The next great example occurred near the end of the first half when Minnesota was able to turn a second-and-2 at the Vikings 26-yard line into a sack fumble by Danielle Hunter and 56-yard return for a touchdown by Ifeadi Odenigbo for a 19-10 lead at intermission.
View game action images as the Vikings take on the Chargers on Sunday.
In addition to that game-breaker, Hunter and Vikings rushers were able to execute multiple effective rushes with partial help from a raucous crowd.
The Vikings sacked Philip Rivers three times and forced three interceptions that were part of Minnesota's seven takeaways.
Press box statisticians credited the Vikings with five quarterback hits, compared to one by the Chargers on Cousins, who was not sacked.
Rivers also got flagged for intentional grounding in the second half.
The final major component of crowd support was the way that fans helped Minnesota build momentum in the second half.
A forced fumble on the opening play of the second half led to a field goal, and Eric Wilson tipped a punt a play after the grounding penalty. Wilson doesn't get credit for a block on the play because the ball traveled 26 yards before landing at the L.A. 41. Another field goal followed in the third quarter, and Minnesota piled on late with the first two touchdown runs of Mike Boone's career.
"I thought our offense did a really nice job today. They have a terrific couple of pass rushers there, and I thought our offensive line did a nice job. I thought Kirk played very well."
— Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
"Communication's a little cleaner. I would think it helps our defense, as well, when their offense has to deal with the challenges that come with the noise. We didn't want to get lulled to sleep, either, though. We still wanted to be ready to communicate. Because when you're in an away stadium, their person on the loudspeaker's going to be loud and try to create noise, as well. We still had some noise at times and had to communicate over it, but it's just great to have the backing and the energy of your fans there in an away stadium."
— QB Kirk Cousins
"Pregame, it felt like we were at home – in a different environment, obviously, but it was a home-type of feeling. It's always been great to see our fans on the road this year – it's been better than I've ever seen it as a Viking. So it definitely helps us, we definitely appreciate that, and we're going to need them on Monday night."
— WR Adam Thielen
"I didn't really see any baby blue jerseys, but I saw a lot of purple. You're always happy when you get your fans to come out. It was kind of loud in there, too. I don't know how many it sat, but I saw a lot of purple. It had us fired up and ready to go."
— WR Stefon Diggs
"This was a home game for us, really. The fans were crazy today. I had 36 tickets today, so they accounted for a little bit. It was nice having that support, but it's been like that everywhere. I'm happy we were able to put a good product out there today."
— LB Anthony Barr, who grew up in Los Angeles
"We joked afterward and said, 'It looks like somebody decided to move U.S. Bank to the West Coast.' We were excited for that, but we knew we had to come out and play."
— S Anthony Harris