A hard-fought battle.
A Vikings' quarterback that had joined the team after years of playing with a hated enemy.
A little-used wide receiver making a huge catch to set up victory.
Am I talking about Brett Favre to Greg Lewis? Nope.
Welcome to the lead-up to what might be the most highly anticipated regular season matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers that either team has seen in the nearly 50 years that these teams have been getting together. This week, we'll be taking a look back at some of the finer moments from this rivalry. . .and in light of what happened yesterday afternoon, I think I have a pretty good place to start.
The game actually took place the day of my 16th birthday, 26 September 1993. It was Week 3 of the season, and both teams entered the game with a record of 1-1. Brett Favre, in his third season in the NFL and his second as the Packers' starting quarterback, led his team into the Metrodome and saw a familiar face quarterbacking the team on the other sideline. . .the face of former Chicago Bears bad boy Jim McMahon. McMahon was a few years removed from his glory days with the Bears and had played in Philadelphia for the three years prior to joining the Vikings, but many Viking fans had a bitter taste in their mouths over the signing of a man that had caused them so much grief over the years.
For the better part of the afternoon, the game was rather non-descript. Favre opened the scoring with a 2-yard touchdown run, and then the game turned into a battle of field goals between Green Bay's Chris Jacke and Minnesota's Fuad Reveiz. Reveiz connected from 35, 19, 29, and 51 yards, but Jacke countered with a 49-yarder in the second quarter, and near the end of the fourth quarter he was good on a 20-yard chip shot to give the Packers a 13-12 lead. The Vikings drove furiously down the field in the waning seconds, and eventually found themselves faced with third and ten from midfield, no timeouts left, and 14 seconds left on the clock. The book Cold Wars: 40+ Years of Packer-Viking Rivalry, sets the scene from there. . .
Anthony Carter lined up wide to the left side, Cris Carter was in the slot on the right, and little-known rookie Eric Guliford was on the far right. The play was designed for Anthony Carter to run 10 yards downfield and then across the middle. Cris Carter ran a 20-yard down-and-out pattern to the right, while the 5-foot-8 Guliford, seeing his first action of the season, went straight down the right sideline as an anticipated decoy.
Now, one of the defensive backs for the Green Bay Packers back in 1993 was a guy by the name of Terrell Buckley. For those of you younger folks who may not have heard of Terrell Buckley, go to Wikipedia, type in "colossal bust," and skip past any Dolly Parton references you may find. . .there has to be a mention of Buckley there somewhere. Now, legend has it that when the Vikings ran this exact play a few plays prior to this moment, Qadry Ismail was in the game instead of Guliford, and was waving his arms hoping to get McMahon to see him on a long pass. Buckley apparently looked at Ismail and said, "What you got your arm up for? He can't throw it that far."
Ismail relayed this message to McMahon back in the huddle. After an incompletion put the Vikings in the third-and-ten situation above, Guliford came in for Ismail. At the snap of the ball, McMahon rolled out to his right. On the run, he launched what could generously be described as a complete duck downfield to. . .
At the Green Bay 10-yard line.
Yep, the guy that "couldn't throw that far" somehow managed to wobble one to an unknown rookie that the Packers defense had become completely oblivious to. . .and it was Buckley that blew the coverage. Guliford caught the pass at the Green Bay 10, and got down to the five-yard line before getting knocked out of bounds by safety Mike Prior with six seconds left on the clock. Reveiz booted his fifth field goal of the day, a 22-yarder, and the Vikings escaped with an improbable 15-13 victory over the Packers.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, I bring you Eric Guliford's career receiving stats as a member of the Minnesota Vikings:
Games Played - 17 (over two seasons)
Receptions - 1
Receiving Yards - 45
Yes. . .that Jim McMahon duck was the only pass Eric Guliford caught in two years and seventeen games as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. And it was enough to etch his name into Vikings/Packers lore.
Now, I think that Greg Lewis might have a little more than one catch in him. . .but for now, the parallels are pretty interesting.