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Final Thoughts: Vikings Return Home Desperately Trying to Avoid 0-3 Hole

EAGAN, Minn. — We've been waiting a long time for this one.

In fact, the official tally is 636 days — the length of time between games at U.S. Bank Stadium with a full crowd.

But the familiar and energetic buzz will be back on Sunday as the Vikings host the Seahawks in Week 3. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:25 p.m. (CT).

Vikings players and coaches said this week they cannot wait for their home venue to be rocking.

"It's a big deal. Honestly, I took it for granted my whole career, even going back to high school, just having fans around," said Vikings safety Harrison Smith. "Once you play without them, you realize how real fans are when it comes to impacting the game. Even if it's an away game, it's good to have fans there. It's just better. It's better energy, it's better for the game."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer added: "I think the whole team feeds off the fans that are there. The crowd noise helps with the opposing offenses obviously, but I believe the whole crowd, hopefully they're as excited to get back as we are. They haven't been back in over a year, so this will be fun for them and fun for us."

Including the playoffs, Minnesota posted a 24-9 record (.727 win percentage) from 2016 to 2019 when U.S. Bank Stadium was full. Last season in an empty venue? Minnesota went 3-5 at home.

The Vikings will surely lean on their home crowd for a boost as they try to avoid an 0-3 start. And the numbers show that's a record that hardly ever means a playoff berth.

According to stats provided by NFL Media Research, there have been 152 teams that have started 0-3 since 1990. Only four of them (2.6 percent) made the playoffs.

There have been 323 teams since 1990 that started 1-2, with 80 of them (24.8 percent) rallying to make the postseason.

A 1-2 record still means tough odds — and the impact of a 17th game this season remains to be seen — but the Vikings know how much is riding on their home opener.

"Obviously, we have an 0-2 record," Peterson said. "The fans are desperate for a win. We're desperate for a win. So, we know that they're going to give us all the energy that we will need."

The Vikings have been right there, with their two losses by a combined four points.

But moral victories only go so far in the league, and Zimmer said it best this week:

"It's time to get some wins."

Here is what Eric Smith, Lindsey Young and Craig Peters of Vikings.com will be watching in Week 3:

Consistency on 3rd downs | By @Eric\_L\_Smith

Here's a good stat: the Vikings defense currently ranks second in the league in third-down percentage. Minnesota has allowed just six conversions on 23 total attempts (26.1 percent).

If the Vikings are to finally get a win against Seattle (its offense ranks 20th with a 38.1-percent success rate), the Vikings defense will need to continue that hot stretch.

Vikings Co-Defensive Coordinator Adam Zimmer said Thursday that the critical down is when U.S. Bank Stadium is usually at its loudest.

"Well, I think on third downs, especially, when we're rushing the passer and we can get off on the snap and they have to rely on silent counts and things like that," Adam Zimmer said. "Where we can go on their movement instead of them knowing what the snap count is and getting off on the ball.

"I think that's huge. I think it hurts the communication. Seattle's running a lot of no huddle," he added. "That can hopefully hinder some of their communication and things like that."

But on the flip side, Minnesota's offense ranks 31st in that same stat. The Vikings have moved the chains just eight times on 26 chances, a success rate of just 30.8 percent.

In Week 1, penalties and miscues forced the Vikings into too many third-and-longs. Minnesota converted just twice in 10 tries against Arizona a week later, but it's worth noting the offense had a few drives where they didn't even get to third downs.

Minnesota's offense won't have to worry about opposing crowd noise now that the Vikings are at home.

They would be wise to take advantage of the conditions against a Seattle defense that is in the middle of the pack. The Seahawks rank 17th overall as opponents have converted 40.7 percent of the time on third downs.

Beware of the deep ball | By @LindseyMNSports

Through just the first two games this season, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown touchdowns of 63, 68 and 69 yards, two of which have been caught by receiver Tyler Lockett. Wilson also has completions of 27, 30 and 51 yards. Of those three, Lockett accounts for two (27 and 51) and receiver DK Metcalf recorded the 30-yard grab.

Lockett and Metcalf have combined through Weeks 1 and 2 for 22 catches for 391 yards and four touchdowns.

Adam Zimmer said it's clear that Wilson and Lockett are on the same page with one another.

"[Wilson will] give him a subtle signal and Lockett will just kind of nod at him, and he'll know what he wants him to do," Zimmer said. "When you're with a guy that long, it's kind of like Harrison Smith and Anthony Barr. They might not have to communicate everything, they just know, 'Hey, I need you to do this' or 'I need you to do that,' so playing with a guy for that long is huge as far as the chemistry of getting to the right route – or he makes a route adjustment that's not in the playbook but Russell anticipates it and then they hit a big play."

Smith is 0-7 against the Seahawks since being drafted by Minnesota in 2012, and he knows the West Coast team will again pose a major challenge for the Vikings defense. Smith noted that Lockett and Metcalf have "very different body types" but both have the ability to make impactful plays at any time.

"Both have a lot of speed and have great judgment of the ball," Smith said. "You see some catches that Metcalf has made but also Lockett, throughout his entire career, over the shoulder catches. There was one last week that was pretty wild. So they're both big threats."

View photos of Vikings players from practice on Sept. 22 at the TCO Performance Center.

Don't let one play become an insurmountable stretch | By @pcraigers

This is a bit of a repeat from a year ago, but it remains true as Minnesota prepares to face Seattle for a fourth consecutive season.

Last year, ahead of the Vikings trip to the Pacific Northwest, I recapped how a bad stretch during each of the four previous meetings under Mike Zimmer had been impacted by a critical stretch during which mistakes mounted and the Seahawks capitalized. Here's a shortened refresher.

Dec. 6, 2015 in Minnesota: A 7-0 Seattle lead became 21-0 by halftime after the Seahawks scored twice in the final 2:11 of the second quarter.

Sound familiar and recent? The Vikings gave up 14 inside the 2-minute warning of the first half in Cincinnati and 10 more last week at Arizona.

Jan. 10, 2016 in Minnesota: Wilson recovered his own fumble and found Tyler Lockett for a gain of 35 two plays before the game's only touchdown.

Dec. 10, 2018 in Seattle: Wilson escaped for a 40-yard run on the way to a touchdown. The Vikings fumble on a strip sack two plays later was returned 29 yards for a score.

Dec. 2, 2019: After Seattle tied the game at 17 early in the third quarter, Minnesota fumbled to set up a field goal. The Seahawks then scored on a 60-yard pass. Two plays later, Kirk Cousins was intercepted, which set up another touchdown.

Oct. 11, 2020: Giving up a pair of fourth-down conversions on the final drive grabbed the headlines, but this one turned from a 13-0 Vikings lead in the third quarter after Dalvin Cook left the game with a groin injury. Seattle came back from an 87.8-percent win probability (according to ESPN), with a four-play touchdown drive, a fumble recovery that was followed by a two-play touchdown drive and a one-play touchdown run that immediately followed an interception.

The Vikings have to close each half strong and avoid letting a bad play turn into a bad series of game-defining plays in order to nab their first win of 2021.

Notable Number: 20

According to data provided by the NFL, Wilson and Cousins each have 20 games with a 100-plus passer rating since the start of the 2019 season. That stat leads all NFL quarterbacks in that span.

Wilson currently leads the league with a 146.9 quarterback rating, while Cousins is eighth overall at 112.9.

Additionally, the pair has the most touchdown passes without an interception so far this season. Wilson has six touchdowns and Cousins has five.

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