There have been a lot of dates that have been associated with U.S. Bank Stadium since it became a reality.
There was the groundbreaking. There was the first real construction taking place. There was the date the roof was affixed in place. There was the day that the construction was completed. There was the day of the first sporting event and concert.
But Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016, will be a day that will take its place among the other milestones as marking the first game played by the Minnesota Vikings in front of a giant crowd as part of their 23-10 win over the San Diego Chargers.
Given that the seating capacity is much larger than that of Met Stadium, the Metrodome or TCF Bank Stadium, Sunday’s game set an all-time attendance for a home game with 66,143 fans marking the moment.
While the fans were in awe of what they were seeing, players like guard Brandon Fusco were in awe of what they were hearing.
“It was a great day,” Fusco said. “It had the feeling of a regular season game because the fans were all into it. Everyone was excited about getting out here. I thought it was just as exciting for the players as it was for the fans.”
Many of the Vikings had been inside the cavernous stadium before and the team ran a practice in the facility Friday morning. But safety Harrison Smith was more impressed than he thought he would be.
Smith has been around long enough to remember the noise level at the Metrodome, but that felt a barn-style echo chamber. He was most impressed with the volume of the crowd when the defense was on the field – which reached a crescendo in the first half when Smith intercepted a pass that led to a field goal and an early 6-0 lead.
“It was great, especially for a preseason game,” Smith said. “It was loud and you could tell that it’s going to get pretty loud in here. That’s what we’re hoping for as a defense especially.”
While many fans believe they can impact a game despite being in the stands, veteran Captain Munnerlyn agreed with the sentiment.
He has seen how difficult a noisy crowd that is aware when to make noise (when the defense is on the field) and when to keep it down (when the offense is running plays) can be on an opponent and said the defense feeds off that energy.
“The team gets revved up when you have the fans in the game and making themselves part of it,” Munnerlyn said. “We had a few plays there in the first half where the place was rocking and we were really feeling it shake in here. It can really create an advantage for you.”
Veteran defensive end Justin Trattou brought the fans to their feet early in the second half when he stripped quarterback Kellen Clemens of the ball that set the Vikings up for a score that built their lead to 20-10 and opened things up.
Like many of his teammates, he was in awe in many of the things he saw – from the fans under the stadium in the Delta Sky 360 Club to the raucous atmosphere once the game started.
“This place is awesome,” Trattou said. “I’ve played in a lot of stadiums around the league and this is best atmosphere I’ve ever seen. To have a sellout crowd for a preseason game shows the kind of atmosphere we’re looking to make here and, from the players side of things, it couldn’t have been better.”
Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd said the decibel level inside was a reminder of how loud a Vikings stadium can be. As a rookie, he experienced that feeling in the Metrodome that the home crowd could generate when in full throat.
It wasn’t that the TCF Bank Stadium crowd wasn’t as loud, but so much of the noise escaped into the air. With more fans back under a roof, he thought it felt like old times.
“After playing outside the last two years, you kind of forget how much of a difference there is playing in a dome,” Floyd said. “The hope is that they get loud when our defense is on the field and makes it tough for those other guys to hear. The more we can get that from the fans, the more it gets us charged up to come off the ball, make plays and get them even louder.”
The best part of it all?
It’s only going to get louder from here and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater may have summed it up best.
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If fans can be this loud in a game that doesn’t have any long-term significance, he is trying to envision what it will be like when Aaron Rodgers leads the Green Bay Packers into Minnesota’s new House of Ear Pain.
“Today was just unbelievable,” Bridgewater said. “I can’t imagine what is going to be like when Green Bay comes here.”