Most of us have been fans of the Minnesota Vikings for a great many years. But whether it's been since 1961 when the team first appeared on the scene or you just recently decided to join the ranks of Vikings fans, we all have memories of the Minnesota Vikings. That brings us to today's topic for the 30 Day Challenge.
What is your earliest Minnesota Vikings memory?
For me, my first couple of seasons as a Vikings fan weren't a whole lot to write home about. I started with the Les Steckel disaster season (but stayed around anyway), followed by Bud Grant's return season and the first season for Jerry Burns. There weren't a lot of great memories to be had for those three seasons. . .but then the 1987 season came along.
1987 was a strange year in the NFL. There was a players' strike following Week 2, and the games for Week 3 were canceled. The games for Weeks 4 through 6 were played with replacement players, or "scabs," after which the "real" players came back. At that time, rather than each conference getting six playoff teams the way they do now, there were only five playoff teams in each conference. . .three division winners and two wild card teams.
The Vikings were one of only five teams in the NFC to finish the 15-game schedule with a record above .500, going 8-7. Their "scab" players went 0-3, meaning that they were 8-4 with their real players. The four other NFC playoff teams. . .the Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints. . .each won at least 11 games. They also each won at least two of their three games with "scab" players, so the records were a bit distorted. With the playoffs only having five teams, there was only one wild card game in each conference. The NFC wild card game took place at the Superdome between the Saints and the Vikings.
That's where the memory starts.
The Vikings were pretty heavily favored going into that game, and things got off to a rough start for the Vikings when the Saints got on the board first to go up 7-0. But the Vikings, keyed by a big 84-yard punt return by Anthony Carter, scored 24 unanswered points, and wound up going to the locker room with a 31-10 lead. They slowed down a little bit in the second half, but the Saints couldn't really get anything going and the Vikings left the Big Easy with a 44-10 victory. That meant that, while the Bears and Redskins were squaring off in one divisional playoff game, the Vikings got rewarded with a trip to Candlestick Park to take on the 49ers.
As big an underdog as the Vikings were against the Saints, they were given even less of a chance against San Francisco. After all, these were the 49ers. Bill Walsh. Joe Montana. Jerry Rice. Roger Craig. Ronnie Lott. They had the highest scoring offense in the NFL and one of the league's best defenses. Surely the Vikings didn't stand a chance against this team.
But nobody bothered to tell the Vikings that.
After a 3-3 tie in the first quarter, the Vikings put up 17 in the second on a Wade Wilson touchdown pass and a pick-six of Montana by Najee Mustafaa, along with a Chuck Nelson field goal. They went into the locker room up 20-3, and though the Niners got a pick-six of their own courtesy of Wade Wilson early in the third, Wilson found Hasaan Jones to make the lead 17 again. And then, the unthinkable happened.
Bill Walsh benched Joe Montana in favor of a guy named Steve Young.
The Vikings' defense harassed Montana all day long, as he completed just 12 of 26 passes for 109 yards and an interception. Young provided a little bit of a spark, but it proved to be too little, too late as the Vikings cruised to a 36-24 victory. Anthony Carter put together what, to this day, might be the best individual performance by a Viking in the postseason. He hauled in 10 passes from Wilson for 224 yards, threw in a 30-yard rush and a couple of punt returns as well. It was truly one of the bigger upsets in NFL postseason history. . .and, hey, someone has the entire game up on YouTube for anyone that wants to watch it.
The Vikings then went into RFK Stadium to take in the Washington Redskins in the NFC Championship Game. It was a hard fought battle that the Redskins ultimately won by the score of 17-10, as a furious last-second drive by the Vikings came up short when. . .well, this happened.
Man. . .still can't believe he dropped that ball. If Darrin Nelson catches that ball, it would have brought the game to a tie and anything could have happened, but still. . .can't believe he didn't catch it.
But the run the Minnesota Vikings went on prior to that dropped pass was really something to behold. Stomping two heavily-favored teams and coming within an eyelash of the Super Bowl is my earliest Vikings memory, and likely the thing that cemented me as a fan of this football team.
What's your earliest memory of Minnesota Vikings football?