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Vikings Records Week: No offense? No problem!

When the return game is working, you don’t need offense

Minnesota Vikings vs New York Giants - November 13, 2005 Photo by Tom Berg/NFLPhotoLibrary

Back in the dark, dark days of the internet. . .you know, before The Daily Norseman became a thing. . .there was still Minnesota Vikings football being played. In fact, had this site been launched a season earlier, we would have had absolutely no shortage of things to talk about.

See, we came online in 2006, which means that we missed the 2005 season. . .and, boy howdy, the 2005 season was a wild one. The Vikings, sans Randy Moss because Red McCombs was a big, fat jerk, had relatively high expectations going into the season, but went into the bye week 1-3. Any chance the team had to get it together again during the bye week was quickly extinguished by the infamous “Love Boat” scandal, and a couple of weeks after that quarterback Daunte Culpepper suffered a career-altering knee injury in a loss to the Carolina Panthers. That loss dropped the Vikings to 2-5, and put head coach Mike Tice’s seat to a very high temperature.

Enter quarterback Brad Johnson, now a grizzled 37-year old veteran, to take over for Culpepper. Johnson led the Vikings to a victory over the Detroit Lions in his first start, and then led the Vikings into the Meadowlands for a showdown with the New York Giants. What the Vikings did on that afternoon in East Rutherford was a first in the history of the National Football League.

With the offense doing absolutely nothing on the day. . .and I mean nothing. . .the Vikings still managed to put up three touchdowns. One came via an interception return, one came via a kickoff return, and one came via a punt return. That was the first time that an NFL team had ever done that in a single game.

The game remained scoreless after one quarter of play, but the second quarter opened with the Giants facing a 2nd-and-6 from the Vikings’ 11-yard line. Eli Manning dropped back to pass, looking for Plaxico Burress, and instead found safety Darren Sharper for the second of four picks Manning would throw on the day. Sharper took the interception all the way back for a 92-yard score, and the Vikings took a 7-0 lead.

The Giants would get two Jay Feely field goals in the second quarter, but still went into the locker room trailing 7-6. Then, on the opening kickoff of the second half, Koren Robinson would take a short kickoff from Feely and weave his way through the Giants’ special teams for an 86-yard score. Paul Edinger connected on the extra point, and the Vikings had a 14-6 lead after putting up six net yards in the first half.

Yes, six. . .as in four yards short of a first down. In an entire half. Told you the offense wasn’t doing anything.

The Giants answered on their next drive, with Manning connecting with Amani Toomer for a 23-yard touchdown to make it a 14-13 game. After another Minnesota punt, the Giants went three-and-out, and Jeff Feagles came in to punt the ball away to Mewelde Moore. Not to be outdone by Sharper and Robinson, Moore got into the return act as well. He fielded the punt and went 71 yards for a score, making the score 21-13 without the Vikings scoring an offensive touchdown.

That’s how the game stayed until late in the fourth quarter, when Tiki Barber ran one in from three yards out with under a minute and a half remaining. The Giants got the two-point conversion, and suddenly we were tied at 21 and seemingly destined for overtime.

The ensuing Vikings’ drive got off to a bad start, as Johnson was sacked by Osi Umenyiora. Then, for the first time all day, the Vikings’ offense came to life. Johnson found Jermaine Wiggins for 21 yards, and then hit Marcus Robinson and Travis Taylor for 11-yard gains on consecutive plays. After another short pass to Wiggins and a couple of incompletions, the Vikings called on Paul Edinger, who had already missed two field goals on the afternoon.

Edinger came in and split the uprights from 48 yards out, giving the Vikings a 24-21 lead with 15 seconds left on the clock. The Giants had one more play, but their lateral-fest was stopped by the Minnesota defense, and the Vikings walked off with an improbable victory. It was the second win in what would end up being a six-game winning streak.

Seriously, the Vikings’ offense was bad that day, folks. The run game generated all of 12 yards on 21 carries, and the offense generated just 11 first downs in the entire contest, three of which came on that game-winning drive. Their first drive of the day started on the Giants’ 27-yard line after New York fumbled the opening kickoff, and got no points (thanks to the first of Edinger’s two misses). They had another first quarter drive that started at the Giants’ 17-yard line after Sharper’s first interception, and also came away with no points (when Edinger’s second attempt was blocked).

I’ve looked for video of this game, but there doesn’t appear to be any readily available on these vast internets of ours. So, you’ll just have to take my word for it. . .or read the boxscore. Whichever.

I’m not sure if a team has done it since, though there’s something in the back of my mind that’s telling me that at least one team has. Still, the Vikings were the first team to score via kick return, punt return, and interception return in one game, and it came in a game where they most certainly needed it.