It's Wild Card Weekend around the National Football League, and as the Vikings are not a part of this year's playoff festivities, we don't have any injury reports to look through or anything like that for ourselves. In lieu of this, it's time to take a look back at a game in which a player powered through for our team in one of those post-season situations.
At the beginning of the 2004 NFL season, Randy Moss was on pace to set all kinds of receiving records. With the huge right arm of Daunte Culpepper pulling the trigger for the Vikings' offense. . .in a season where he should have been the NFL's Most Valuable Player, but that's another argument for another time. . .Moss was being found in the end zones of NFL stadiums everywhere. Through the first four games of the season, #84 had reeled in seven touchdown passes, and brought in an eighth in a Sunday night game in New Orleans.
Then, during that game against the Saints, Moss was chasing down a deep ball and injured his hamstring. Though he made a couple of token appearances in games against the Tennessee Titans and the New York Giants, he didn't catch a pass in either of those games, and missed the next three entirely. He managed to come back and catch five more touchdown passes in the final six games of the year to give him 13 on the season, and though he was drawing coverage away from players like Nate Burleson, Marcus Robinson, and Jermaine Wiggins, he clearly wasn't the same player that he had been. The Vikings, who had started the 2004 season with a 5-1 record, stumbled to an 8-8 finish, and backed into the playoffs only after Carolina Panthers defeated the Saints in one of the late games in the last week of the season (after the Vikings had already lost to the Washington Redskins in the infamous "Moss walks off the sidelines early" game).
The Vikings' opponent in the first round of the playoffs was their division rival, the Green Bay Packers. . .a team that had defeated Minnesota twice in the regular season. They won both games by three points, and both victories came after Brett Favre had moved the Packers downfield to set up short Ryan Longwell field goals. With the chaos caused by the sideline turmoil in the game in D.C., basically nobody in America gave the Minnesota Vikings a chance of walking into Lambeau Field and knocking off the Packers. Moss' hamstring clearly wasn't healthy, as he was walking with a noticeable limp after every game he had played since his return, and there were people questioning whether Randy Moss was still "great."
However, as the only saying goes, great players aren't always great. . .they're great when they have to be. And on 9 January 2005, Randy Moss was great.
Sure, the boxscore says that he "only" caught four passes. . .it's not a ton, but it still tied with Burleson for the Vikings' lead in receptions that day. . .and he reeled in two of Culpepper's four touchdown passes, one from 20 yards out in the first quarter to put the Vikings up 14-0, and one from 34 yards out to finish up the scoring and give the Vikings a 31-17 victory. You've probably seen that second one once or twice. . .go ahead and watch it again.
In a related story, I think Joe Buck may still be whining about Moss' celebration somewhere.
Yes, Randy Moss didn't necessarily work out for the Vikings the second time around. . .whether it was the fault of Moss or Brad Childress or whoever else is the subject of some debate, but none of that matters now. The Randy Moss that Viking fans will remember is the one that went out with a bang in that Wild Card playoff game in Green Bay six years ago tomorrow. On a bad wheel and surrounded by controversy and turmoil, Moss powered through and made every football media member in America look foolish by beating their beloved Green Bay Packers in front of a national television audience.