Randy Moss is a player that evokes a lot of emotions in Vikings fans. Even some 10 plus years after his prime, highlight reel seasons in Minnesota, and seven after the ill-fated 2010 trade back and subsequent release, the name Moss elicits an almost visceral reaction, both for and against. As the years have waned, I think there are less ‘against’ opinions than there were a few years ago, but this article isn’t about that.
This article is about the SuperFreak.
Because I think all of us can agree on one thing—Randy Moss, in his prime with the Vikings, was like The Terminator on the football field. He couldn’t be bargained with. He couldn’t be be reasoned with. He didn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And he absolutely did not stop, ever, until he beat you. And with the recent announcement of him being inducted into the Vikings Ring Of Honor, I thought it might be fun to look back on some of his highlights.
When Moss burst on to the scene, the NFC North loaded up to stop him once he was in the division, and it was futile. In 1999, the Vikings biggest rival, the Green Bay Packers, spent their first three draft picks on cornerbacks—Antuan Edwards, Fred Vinson, and Mike McKenzie—to try and stop him.
And still, it didn’t matter. In 15 career regular season games against Green Bay (14 with Minnesota, one with San Francisco), Moss had 73 catches, 1320 yards, and 14 touchdowns. You see, when Moss was on, he was quite literally unstoppable. He changed the way the game is played, and how defenses cover wide receivers deep down the field. That change began in Minnesota, so let’s take a look at what I think are his his top five moments as a member of the Minnesota Vikings.
As an aside, these are mixed between individual plays and full games. I thought about doing top five plays, but I guess the best way to describe this list is that I consider these his most iconic moments. Some can be summed up in one play, while others you need to take in the whole game to fully appreciate. I hope you understand my reasoning as you read this list.
2004: NFC Wildcard Playoff Game, at Green Bay:
For all the post-season disappointment littered throughout the Vikings post-season history, there are some bright, shining moments. For me, none was better than this game, at this moment, in that stadium. This was an 8-8 team that backed in to the playoffs due to an upset loss to Washington in the final week of the season, with Moss walking off the field with a few seconds still on the clock. Coming into Lambeau, no one gave them a shot in hell of winning this game.
But that was soon forgotten. Dogged by an ankle injury, Moss still put on a show that will never be forgotten by Vikings fans, or Packers CB Al Harris. He only had 4 catches for 70 yards, but he had two touchdowns, and one TD celebration that has become one of the most iconic moments in Vikings history.
The Vikings had controlled most of the game, but Brett Favre had the Packers back within seven points early in the fourth quarter, and you could feel momentum swinging Green Bay’s direction. The Vikings started driving, though, and with just over 10 minutes remaining, from the Packers 34, Moss got behind Al Harris and QB Daunte Culpepper found him. Then Moss shot the moon into Vikings lore:
I still smile and giggle like a 10 year old when I watch that clip, with the Joe Buck ‘that was a ‘DISGUSTING ACT’ commentary. I utterly loved it, and I always will. And that play and celebration was, in many respects, Randy Moss’ career with the Vikings in a nutshell. On the field talent that just absolutely took your breath away, and off the field antics that some thought brought a lot of unnecessary attention to the team.
And it was that accumulation of off the field incidents, brought to a head by walking off the field in Washington, and the Moon Over Lambeau, that caused Moss to be traded to the Oakland Raiders after the 2004 season. I hope wherever Red McCombs is he is choking on a herpes infected dick right now.
2000: Thanksgiving Day, Touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys:
This Thanksgiving day game against Dallas wasn’t as dominant as his 1998 game, but he had, in that game, what I believe to be the most impossible touchdown catch in Vikings history, save for Ahmad Rashad’s Met Stadium Miracle.
It’s late 3rd quarter, Vikings are up 20-9, and are on the Dallas 37. QB Daunte Culpepper took the snap dropped back to the 40, and I distinctly remember thinking that when he threw the ball he was throwing it out of bounds. He was looking deep for Moss, but I assumed he saw Moss covered, and was just throwing it into the third row.
No. He threw it to the far back corner of the end zone, and Moss, going near full speed, went up, caught the ball while he seemed to simultaneously stop in mid air, and came down with both feet in bounds in the back of the end zone. Touchdown. Ball game. Incredible. I still shake my head in disbelief when I watch that clip.
1998: Monday Night Football, at Green Bay, Week 5:
Although the Vikings came out of the gate firing on all cylinders to begin the 1998 season, they still weren’t on the nation’s radar yet. For me, it was the first Vikings game I was able to watch that year, as I had been overseas in the Army for four years, and this was before you could stream games over the Internet and whatnot. I had kept up with them, and my Dad told me ‘hey this Moss kid is pretty good’, but I hadn’t watched them play yet except for a few game highlights. So I was intrigued, which I think is a good word to describe the rest of the NFL at the time. Both teams were 4-0, but the Packers were the prohibitive NFL favorite. They had won almost 30 straight games at home, and were favored to beat the Vikings. There was also a torrential downpour, which most folks thought would hurt the Vikings deep passing game.
Yeah, whatever. This became a national coming out party for Moss and the Vikings, as the big play offense rolled over the Packers. Cunningham had 442 yards passing, while Moss had 190 yards receiving and two TD’s. He also had a 75 yard touchdown pass nullified by a penalty, or the offensive numbers would have been Madden on rookie ridiculous. The final score was 37-24, but it wasn’t that close, as the Vikings rolled up a 37-10 lead in the 4th quarter.
That’s when I knew the Vikings had something special that year.
1998: Thanksgiving Day, at Dallas:
Moss had more receiving yards against Green Bay on Monday Night, and a more highlight reel TD against the Cowboys in 2000, but this game was the combination of his ridiculous speed and unworldly athleticism that could have just as easily put this at two or three on the list.
He only had three catches, but they went for 163 yards and three touchdowns, each one more ridiculous than the previous one.
The catch and run TD is almost as good as his 2000 TD catch, as it’s Moss and his speed on full display. The Cowboys defense collapses on him, thinking they can use the sideline to get him out of bounds, and he just...out...runs...everyone. No matter how many times I watch that, I have a hard time believing a human being can run that fast in full pads.
Finally, watching Randall Cunningham and Moss play pitch and catch almost all year was just an absolute joy.
2003: No look flip to Moe Williams, Week 7, vs Denver:
Finally, sometimes teams can do everything right, and Moss still burns you. Yeah, this no look catch and flip to Moe Williams was one of literally dozens of OH MY GOD DID YOU JUST SEE THAT moments Moss provided, but this was also the cerebral Moss. He never got a lot of credit for being a ‘smart’ player in the sense he understood defenses and how to attack them. Most people thought he was just a speed demon that beat everyone with his legs. While partially accurate, Moss was also a heady player, and had as good a feel for the game as anyone who has ever played.
Still, my first reaction was OH MY GOD DID YOU JUST SEE THAT WOOOOOOOOOO, because, well, Superfreak, man.
So, there you have it. What I think are Moss’ top five playes or moments as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. Amazing, the only word I can use to describe him on the field.
Simply amazing. Can’t wait for the Ring of Honor Induction Ceremony.