With training camp less than three weeks away, there’s a lot of anticipation towards the Minnesota Vikings and their 2017 season. With Super Bowl LII being held in Minnesota, a lot of folks think that the Vikings have all the pieces in place to make a run to be the first team to play that game on their home field.
I don’t know if I’m to that point just yet, but I like the makeup of this team so far. I think the playoffs are a definite possibility, and that got me to thinking what my favorite Vikings playoff games of all time were. So Iasked that question on Twitter earlier, and I got some great responses. From there, I thought this would make a nice post to break up the summer doldrums, and gives us something fun to talk about.
Keep in mind these aren’t necessarily their biggest wins, in terms of historical importance, just my personal favorites. Anyway, peruse through the list and then share your favorites below.
5. Los Angeles Rams, 1976 NFC Championship. Vikings 24, Rams 13: This was the last great hurrah for the Purple People Eaters, and it was a game that was, in many ways, a microcosm of that era. Bobby Bryant returned a blocked field goal 90 yards for a touchdown, the defense was stout and opportunistic, and Chuck Foreman had 199 yards of total offense. They jumped out to a 17-0 lead, and it was the second time in three years the Vikings had topped the Rams for the right to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
Although it’s overlooked now, the Rams and Vikings had one of the most heated rivalries in the NFC back then, with the teams meeting five times in the playoffs from 1969-1978. The Vikings went 4-1, and they also played in ‘The Mud Bowl’ the following year, one of the most famous playoff games in NFL history.
4. New York Giants, 1997 Wild Card game. Vikings 23, Giants 22: When Denny Green took over as head coach in 1992, he took them to the playoffs five times in his first six seasons, from 1992-1994, and again in ‘96 and ‘97. The Vikings went one and done in each of those seasons leading up to this game, and Denny found himself on a bit of a hot seat at that point. You could, I think, make the argument that Green would have been fired if the Vikes didn’t win this game and the Vikings went one and done again. In 1997, it sure looked like that was going to happen, as the Giants had a 19-3 halftime lead, and with less than nine minutes left in the 4th quarter, New York was up by nine, with a win percentage of 98%.
Then, with the game winding down an incredible sequence of events occurred. The Vikings got the ball after a Brad Daluiso field goal made it 22-13, the drive stalled...and Denny chose to punt. Seriously. But the Vikes defense held, they got the ball back with just over two minutes on the clock, at about midfield. A four play drive that included a Randall Cunningham spike culminated with a 30 yard Jake Reed touchdown reception. Then, almost unbelievably, Chris Walsh recovered the ensuing onside kick, and the Vikings offense took over at their own 38 with one timeout and a little over one minute left. Cris Carter had a big 21 yard catch, Robert Smith had a huge 16 yard run down to the Giants five yard line that no one was expecting, and the next thing you knew Eddie Murray was kicking a game winning 24 yard field goal...that was about as far left as it could be while still being good.
1998 foreshadowing, thy name is Eddie Murray.
3. Dallas Cowboys, 2009 NFC Divisional Playoffs. Vikings 34, Cowboys 3: If you’re a fan that has been around long enough to watch the Purple People Eaters era, there is one painful memory that stands out above anything else in franchise history: The Hail Mary Game, alternatively titled the ‘Drew Pearson Pushed Off Nate Wright And Can Burn In Hell’ game. No matter how many Super Bowls the Vikings may eventually win, I will never, ever fully get over that game against Dallas. Ever. Between that moment and 2009, there was a playoff win in 1999, but that was the end of the Triplets era in Dallas, and it was an old, beat up team that was a shell of their mid-90’s dominance. That 27-10 win was nice, but it didn’t come close to healing that Hail Mary wound, not in the least bit. There was also an NFC Championship loss in 1977, and a humiliating 40-15 loss in 1996, so to say the Vikings playoff history against the Cowboys was lackluster was a bit of an understatement.
This game was in many ways an exorcism of that past futility. It was possibly the most satisfying win I can ever remember as a fan of this team, as the Vikings manhandled the Cowboys from the opening kickoff to the final gun. It won’t completely heal the Hail Mary wound; not even a Super Bowl win could do that I don’t think. But after a week of all the ‘experts’ telling us the Cowboys would walk in to the Metrodome and handle the Vikings, watching Brett Favre and Sidney Rice disembowel the Dallas defense while the Williams Wall defense harassed and manhandled Tony Romo all day just made me giddy. Cowboys LB Keith Brooking crying in a post game interview about the Vikings running up the score was my favorite moment of that whole 2009 season, next to the Favre to Lewis TD. I still chuckle thinking about it.
2. San Francisco 49ers, 1987 Divisional Playoffs. Vikings 36, 49ers 24: The first word I think of when I think of this game is ‘shocking’. No one, and I mean literally no one, gave the Vikings a shot in hell of beating the 49ers. San Francisco was in the middle of the Montana-Walsh era, and although they had only won a single Super Bowl up to that point, the 49ers were the heavy favorite to win the NFC, the Super Bowl, and were double digit favorites against the Vikings in this game. They had the number one offense in the NFL, the number three defense, and home field advantage. The Vikings? Well, their 8-7 record was a bit misleading, as 1987 was marred by a players strike and then replacement players who played for three games. The Vikings replacement team was horrid, going 0-3, but the 8-4 record by the regular players indicated a pretty decent team. They smoked the Saints 44-10 in New Orleans the week prior in the Wild Card game, so I kinda thought the Vikes had a puncher’s chance. I mean, deep down I didn’t really expect them to win, but I didn’t think it would be a blowout, either.
Only it was a blowout, and it was the Vikings kicking the hell out of the 49ers. Anthony Carter had a career game, catching 10 passes for 227 yards while clowning one of the best secondaries in NFL history all day. Najee Mustafaa née Reggie Rutland had a 45 yard pick six, the Vikings defense sacked Joe Montana four times, and midway through the third quarter, Walsh benched Montana for Steve Young, essentially waving the white flag of surrender. It was surreal. I remember shaking my head in disbelief the whole game, not sure that what was happening was actually, you know, really happening. After that game, I thought beating the Washington Redskins and going to the Super Bowl was going to be a snap...
1. Green Bay Packers 2004, 2004 Wild Card Playoffs. Vikings 31, Packers 17. Yeah, this is my favorite of all time, for a couple different reasons. For one, it’s the Packers, the Vikings most hated rival. ANd the two teams were in very different places in 2004. The Packers had won yet another division title, were considered one of the NFC favorites, and they had league darling Brett Favre. The Vikes were an 8-8 Jekyll and Hyde conundrum, though. QB Daunte Culpepper had the best statistical season for a QB in team history, throwing for over 4,700 yards, 39 TD’s, and only 11 interceptions. He had gone from a running QB to a QB, and he was utterly dominant at times. Yet, there were other times when the Vikes couldn’t get out of their own way, and that season felt like as soon as they took one step forward and they turned a corner, the next week they took two steps back and were ‘the same old Vikings’.
Against Green Bay, though, the Vikings came out firing on both cylinders, on both sides of the ball. They opened the scoring with a Moe Williams 68 yard catch and run, the defense harassed Favre all day with four picks and two sacks, and...oh yeah, some guy named Randy Moss. Why do I love Randy Moss?
That’s why I love Randy Moss. This is one of the great NFL rivalries, and for the better part of the last 20-25 years, Green Bay has had the upper hand. Some of the most embarrassing losses this team has endured has come at the hands of Green Bay, and very rarely did the Vikings get to rub Green Bay’s nose in it. This 31-17 victory and the Moss Moon was one of those moments, and until they win it all, this win, and that moment, will not be topped.
Let’s hear your favorite playoff win!
What was your favorite Vikings playoff win?
This poll is closed
1976 NFC Championship, Rams
1997 Wild Card, Giants
2009 Divisional Playoff, Cowboys
1987 Divisional Playoff, 49ers
2004 Wild Card, Packers