MINNEAPOLIS — Jerick McKinnon said the atmosphere was "electric."
The ending? Well it was a shock.
Minnesota drove 52 yards in 76 seconds, advancing to the Seattle 9-yard line with 26 seconds left.
A 27-yard field goal attempt by Vikings kicker Blair Walsh, however, sailed wide left of the uprights. He blamed himself for the kick into the wind, but teammates had his back.
The Vikings 10-9 loss was an abrupt ending to the coldest game in Vikings history and a season of sweat and dreams. It was an unthinkable punctuation that linebacker Chad Greenway said can't be the end to his story.
"Playing on this team has been a little bit different, with the cast of characters we have, specifically in our room as backers and across the team," Greenway said. "So [whether or not to return for an 11th season] is a decision that's going to have to come, but I'm going to play football. I've got to play one more year. I just can't seem to end like this.
"There's so many factors that go into that question, but there's enough football left in me to play another season and try to go out differently," Greenway added.
Earlier this week, Greenway said how much he'd like to play in U.S. Bank Stadium, the indoor venue and Vikings future home that is less than seven months from completion. That's a sentiment that everyone would echo after 52,090 fans braved the kickoff temperature of minus-6, the coldest game in Vikings history and one of the most extreme in NFL history.
Vikings players fed off the outpouring of support in the first home playoff game for Minnesota since 2009 and the first to be hosted outdoors since 1976.
Greenway has savored the moments. In organized team activities in the spring, he welcomed rookies like second-rounder Eric Kendricks and seventh-rounder Edmond Robinson to the linebackers' meeting room.
This summer at training camp, Greenway prolonged his practice days to have genuine conversations with fans. This fall he was one of four season-long captains selected by teammates. He delivered a memorable 91-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Chargers this fall.
Then came winter, when Greenway led the linebackers back onto the field at the University of Minnesota (after the Vikings defeated the Giants to clinch a playoff berth) and Lambeau Field (after Minnesota won its first NFC North title since 2009) for post-game photos.
"It's a lot of fun to be a veteran leader with this group because they are so hungry to do well," Greenway said. "They have so much fun, but when it's time to work, we work. It's going to be hard to find a football team that's going to outwork us, whether it be in practice or a walk-through, doing things correctly. It's been a privilege and an honor to be a captain.
"There's enough football left in me to play another season and try to go out differently," Greenway said.
Adrian Peterson, another season-long captain who also played in just the fifth postseason game of his career, said he was "glad to hear" that Greenway believes that.
"Him leaving in this fashion is not what I would want for him," Peterson said. "He deserves more, and he has brought a lot of leadership, hard work, and that warrior mentality to this organization. That's my brother, and I love him. When I'm out there fighting, he's one of the guys I'm doing it for. So to hear that, it makes me feel real good. We need him around."
Greenway, Peterson and Brian Robison are the only three Vikings to play in Sunday's game, the 2012 Wild Card game and the gut-wrenching 2009 NFC Championship.
Robison still had on his full uniform while he answered questions well after the game ended. He yearned for another snap on a day when the Vikings kept the Seahawks at zero points for the first 48-plus minutes of the game.
"As a veteran in this league, you understand all the work you put in, it's over now and you've got to move forward," Robison said. "It's going to be a long road again. One of the good things about it is I was able to spend this year with this team, and I wouldn't trade one of these guys for another guy from another team."
Kendricks, who was a key part of a rookie class that contributed to Minnesota's success this season, said the young players benefitted from the veterans' guidance.
View pregame and game action photos of Sunday's game vs. the Seahawks.
"I feel like they are reasons why we're in the position we were in today, the leadership, those guys are huge parts of the team," Kendricks said. "I just feel like we created a standard here, and we're going to keep on the same path because it's honest hard work."
Mike Zimmer led the Vikings to the postseason in just his second year at the helm and the best record (11-5 in regular season home games the past two seasons) ever in a temporary stadium. The Vikings were the first team playing regular season games in a temporary home to host a playoff game.
Zimmer said he's "probably never been more proud of a football team than I am of this team," but he also understands that success this season doesn't guarantee more next year.
"I think this team proved a lot of things to a lot of people this year," Zimmer said. "The unfortunate part is each year is a different year, so just like whatever we did throughout the regular season, it didn't matter today. … It's all about the opportunity that you had and what you do with it. I like this football team. I think we have a lot of great people on it, a lot of really good team guys that care, that work, that will bust their rear end, and so that's always a good place to start."