One day after the Detroit Lions ended a three-year, 19-game losing streak against NFC North opponents, football fans in the Motor City will get to experience two things even rarer than a divisional win by the Lions: free tickets to a Monday night game at Detroit’s Ford Field.
The rescheduled game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants will take place at Ford Field tonight, December 13, at 7:20 p.m. It will be the first primetime game at the stadium since it opened in 2002 and the first primetime game carried from the Detroit area since 2001, back when the Lions played at the Pontiac Silverdome.
The Vikings-Giants game was scheduled for December 12 at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. But a blizzard first forced a postponement and then a venue change after the Metrodome’s inflatable roof collapsed under the weight of 17 inches of snow early Sunday.
The NFL decided to move the game to Detroit after considering dome stadiums in Indianapolis, New Orleans and Seattle, as well as the outdoor facility at the University of Minnesota. The official announcement came just hours before the Lions upset the Green Bay Packers, 7-3, at Ford Field on December 12.
According to the Associated Press, the NFL settled on Detroit because the Fox network already had a crew in the Motor City for the Lions-Packers game. The game will be televised on Fox in the New York and Minnesota markets and will also be carried as part of DirectTV’s “Sunday Package.”
The NFL also decided to try and fill Ford Field for the hastily scheduled game by offering free tickets. Fans in Detroit responded by lining up in the 10-degree weather in such droves that the Lions announced around 11 a.m. — just two hours after the box office opened — that there were no more tickets available. According to the NFL, Vikings fans who are able to make the almost 700-mile trek to Detroit will be given priority seating at the 50-yard line tonight.
The NFL may not be done scrambling to put a roof over the Vikings’ heads. The team is scheduled to host the Chicago Bears next Monday, December 20. Even if the Metrodome is repaired in the next seven days, its roof’s collapse — the fourth such collapse in the venue’s 29-year history — further clouds the long-term future of the Vikings in Minnesota.
The Vikings’ lease at the Metrodome ends after next year and the franchise has been trying for years to secure funding for a new stadium. The Vikings’ signing of once-hated rival Brett Favre prior to last season was viewed as an attempt to build support for the stadium effort.
But after losing the NFC Championship Game in Favre’s first year at the helm, the Vikings stumbled out to a 3-7 start this year that cost head coach Brad Childress his job. Favre has struggled, as well — leaving two games early due to injury and possibly missing tonight’s game, which would bring an end to his record streak of 297 consecutive starts.
The Vikings-Giants game marks the eighth time in the last 20 years the NFL has had to reschedule a game and the third time it has been forced to relocate a contest on short notice.
In 2003, a Miami Dolphins-San Diego Chargers game was moved to Sun Devil Stadium in Arizona because wildfires in San Diego turned Qualcomm Stadium into an evacuation area. In 2005, a Giants-New Orleans Saints game was moved to Giants Stadium after Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed the Superdome. The Saints played the rest of their home games that season in San Antonio, TX, and Baton Rouge, LA.