EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings players and Head Coach Mike Zimmer were impressed by the amount of purple and the intensity of the passion in the first regular-season game at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday.
Minnesota hosted Green Bay in the 112th Border Battle between the teams (including two playoff games) on Sunday Night Football, giving fans plenty to be excited about.
Zimmer and a mix of players said the crowd exceeded their expectations.
"The fans were unbelievable. They were loud," Zimmer said. "I've been in some of these games before where there's been a lot more green in the stadium. There was a lot of purple in here, and they were as good of a crowd as I've seen. In my opinion, it was pretty darn loud."
Linebacker Chad Greenway has been around the rivalry since 2006 and watched closely over the years as the Vikings worked on a stadium solution to replace the Metrodome. Now in his 11th season, Greenway noticed he didn't hear as many Packers fans as some games over the years.
"It's incredible. It's such a joy to see the State of Minnesota and Minnesota Vikings fans from South Dakota, North Dakota and Iowa, and really all over the world, come in and enjoy it," Greenway said. "To have it kind of be such build-up over the years to get to this point today, and then to have it go your way is just beautiful. That's the way it should go."
"You feel great for the organization, for the Wilf family, for our ownership, but also for the administration and obviously for the players who put the work in," Greenway added. "And the people who got the stadium built, the fans for coming here."
Minnesota native Adam Thielen grew up passionately involved in the rivalry and has been able to play a significant role in two straight Vikings victories.
"Oh yeah, from pregame warm ups to the end of the game, it was crazy in here," Thielen said. "You can feel that the energy was great, and it brought the energy out of us as players, and the defense fed off of it. It definitely helps us win games."
DJ Skee played mixed music from the field during player warm-ups, Ahmad Rashad narrated a special one-time-only video shown on the mammoth HD video boards, the Purple People Eaters joined Vikings captains for the coin toss, players took the field during introductions through a brand new ship that features a fire-breathing dragon at its bow, Jordin Sparks performed the National Anthem accompanied by a field-sized flag, and Hall of Fame Coach Bud Grant sounded the Gjallarhorn. Check out reactions on social media.
Players who are newer to the rivalry also soaked up the atmosphere and helped add to it.
Sam Bradford played in his first game since joining the Vikings on Sept. 3. The quarterback completed 22 of 31 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns on his first time on the field.
"That's one of the best atmospheres I've probably ever played in," Bradford said. "A lot of people talk about Seattle being loud but tonight this building was rocking. Our fans were tremendous. I think a lot of credit goes to them."
Bradford said the crowd noise made it difficult for the Packers, and sometimes even difficult on the Vikings because fans were extending their celebrations of plays.
"[The Packers] were having a hard time with communication," Bradford said. "I think there were times we were having a hard time communicating because it was so loud in there. It's fun when you get to play in atmospheres like that, it's not an every week thing. You don't get to play in front of crowds like that all the time so when you do, it's really special."
The Vikings defense was able to sack Aaron Rodgers five times and force a career-high three fumbles by the two-time NFL MVP.
Tom Johnson drew one of the cheers from the crowd when he sacked Rodgers.
"We've got the best fans in the league," Johnson said. "They came out excited, enthused, and they definitely came and gave us an extra boost at times when we needed it. You could see that it frustrated them, seeing the offense that they had, calls that they couldn't get in that they were trying to get in and communicate. It was difficult for them."
The Vikings are scheduled to face the Panthers at noon (CT) Sunday. The next home game for Minnesota will be Oct. 3 against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football.