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Sunday Morning Bloody Mary: Going Back In Time

I could use this space to talk about yesterday's playoff action, but I'm really not in the mood for that sort of thing. So, since people seemed to enjoy it last week when we did it with a different sponsored post, let's take a look back at some Vikings post-season heroics from years past. Rather than a Bloody Mary, this one is more like a martini. . .the performance we're going to be looking at was stirring, to say the least, and it certainly left Minnesota's opponent that afternoon shaken.

The 1987 NFL season was a weird one, to say the least. First off, there was a players' strike (which is completely different from the potential lockout that we're probably looking at here in a couple of months, but that's another discussion for another time), and the regular season wound up being 15 games long rather than the standard 16. The first two weeks of the season went on as scheduled, the games for Week Three were canceled (the Vikings would have played the Kansas City Chiefs), and the games from Weeks Four, Five, and Six were played with what came to be known as "scab" players. . .which was a more politically correct way of saying "a bunch of dudes that the owners basically picked up off of the street so that they could sell tickets to crappy football games and hopefully have to eat a little less of a loss in ticket revenue."

The Vikings lost all three of their "scab" games. . .three divisional losses against Green Bay, Chicago, and Tampa Bay. . .and finished the season with a record of 8-7 (8-4 in games played by the actual Minnesota Vikings). That 8-7 record, however, was good enough to get them into the playoffs. Of the 14 NFC teams, only five of them. . .Washington, Chicago, Minnesota, San Francisco, and New Orleans. . .finished above .500. In those days (which, after further review, was NOT unusual. . .thanks to BennyKanin for the correction), the playoffs in each conference consisted of five teams rather than four, with the "first round," such as it was, being between the two Wild Card teams in each conference, with the winner moving on to take on the conference's #1 seed. The Houston Oilers and Seattle Seahawks did battle in the AFC, and the NFC game saw the Vikings take their 8-7 mark to New Orleans to take on the 12-3 Saints. It was the first playoff game in Saints' history, and with the disparity in the records, many just expected the Saints to roll over Minnesota and move onto a match-up with their division rivals from San Francisco.

To make a long story short. . .because this game isn't the one we're interested in for these purposes. . .the Vikings beat the living crap out of the Saints to the tune of 44-10. Minnesota's defense allowed New Orleans just 149 yards on the afternoon, forcing four turnovers and, after the Saints got out to a 7-0 lead, scored 44 of the game's final 47 points. Wide receiver Anthony Carter had a fine performance against the Saints, with six catches for 79 yards, a touchdown reception, and an 84-yard punt return for a score. . .

But he was just getting warmed up.

The next week, Minnesota mad a big cross-country trek to battle Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and the San Francisco 49ers. The Vikings were huge underdogs, as you'd expect. Rice was being hyped pretty heavily, and with good reason. After all, 1987 was the year that Jerry Rice set the NFL record for touchdown receptions in a season with 22. . .and he did it in twelve regular season games. (When Randy Moss caught 23 touchdown passes in 2007 to break Rice's record, he required all 16 games to get it done.) But that afternoon, it was Anthony Carter that put on a huge performance. How huge? Here's how then-head coach Jerry Burns classified Carter's performance on the afternoon of January 9, 1988.

"The one thing I've always remembered is that you've seen running backs dominate games, and you've seen quarterbacks dominate games, but I'd never seen a wide receiver dominate a game like Anthony Carter did that particular game. Anything you threw out there [Wade Wilson was the quarterback] he went and got it. He took it away from people. [That] was the most sensational one particular game that I've ever seen any receiver play."

(Hat tip to the Star-Tribune and Sid Hartman for that quote.)

That afternoon, quarterback Wade Wilson completed 20 passes for 298 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Darrin Nelson, Allen Rice, Carl Hilton, Alfred Anderson, Hassan Jones, and Leo Lewis combined for 10 receptions, 71 yards, and both touchdowns.

Anthony Carter caught ten passes for 227 yards. . .by himself. At the time, it was the highest yardage total for a wide receiver in NFL post-season history, and it took over 20 years for anyone to break it. (Buffalo Bills' wide receiver Eric Moulds set a new benchmark with 240 yards in a game against the Miami Dolphins in 1998.) He even threw in a 30-yard carry on a reverse in the third quarter to set up a Hassan Jones touchdown reception. Carter caught short passes, he caught long passes (a 44-yard reception after the Niners had pulled to within 27-17), he turned short passes into long passes (a 62-yard catch and run in the second quarter), and generally just embarrassed the San Francisco secondary all afternoon long.

When the dust. . .or, more accurately with the conditions at Candlestick Park that day, the mud. . .finally settled and the smoke cleared, the Vikings had thumped the prohibitive NFC favorites in their house by a score of 36-24. While Carter finished with 10 catches for 227 yards, the Vikings' defense held Jerry Rice to just three catches for 28 yards. The Niners even went so far as to bench Joe Montana for some backup by the name of Steve Young. It didn't matter, though. . .that day was just Minnesota's day, and nothing was going to get in their way.

(For a slightly more detailed account of this game, check out the folks at "Tiger Woods Fist Pump" with their recap.)

Of course, as we all know, the Vikings went on to lose the NFC Championship Game the next week to the Washington Redskins at RFK Stadium after Darrin "Yes, I Was Taken Three Spots Ahead Of Marcus Allen In The 1982 Draft" Nelson dropped what would have been the game-tying touchdown pass with less than a minute left on the clock. It was a disappointing end to a surprising season of Vikings football. . .but for a couple of outstanding weeks and a couple of blowout wins over teams thought to be significantly superior to Minnesota, it certainly felt like the Vikings could beat anybody.