As we detailed in our history post yesterday, the Minnesota Vikings have had quite a bit of success in their all-time series against the Atlanta Falcons, posting a record of 17-9 in their 26 regular season matchups. As good as that is, their success rate seems to increase when the Falcons are their first opponent of the season.
This will be the fifth time that the Vikings have opened up a season against the “Dirty Birds,” and in their first four games in that scenario, they have a perfect 4-0 record.
Here’s a brief look at the four times the Vikings have opened a season against Atlanta and how the games turned out.
14 September 1968 - On a relatively warm and breezy day at Metropolitan Stadium, the Vikings and Falcons got together to kick off the 1968 season. Things started out slowly enough, with the Vikings taking a 3-0 lead after the first quarter of play. In the second quarter, however, the Minnesota offense exploded for 28 points, including three touchdown passes from Joe Kapp, to take a 31-0 lead into the locker room. The Falcons got the first score of the second half, but the Vikings then piled on 16 more points for a 47-7 victory, the largest margin of victory for either team in the history of the series.
7 September 1980 - The two teams met at Metropolitan Stadium for another season opener, and early on it looked like the Vikings might take a similar path to the one they took in 1968. The Vikings led 14-6 at halftime, and Tommy Kramer’s third touchdown pass of the afternoon gave the purple a 21-6 lead early in the third quarter. Undeterred, quarterback Steve Bartkowski led the Falcons on a ferocious comeback, putting up 17 unanswered points to push the visitors ahead, 23-21, late in the contest. The Vikings got the last laugh, however, as Rick Danmeier’s 27-yard field goal provided the final margin, allowing the Vikings to escape with a 24-23 victory.
12 September 1999 - This game took place at the Georgia Dome, and was presumably the matchup chosen for opening weekend because. . .well, given the date, you probably know why. (We don’t want to talk about that.) The Vikings put up a pair of touchdowns, one on a pass from Randall Cunningham to Cris Carter and another on a Leroy Hoard run, along with a Gary Anderson field goal to take a 17-0 lead. The Falcons cut the lead to 17-7 just before halftime, and only mustered one more score on a short touchdown run in the fourth quarter. The Vikings didn’t score any more points after that second quarter outburst, but they didn’t need to, as the defense did enough, forcing three Atlanta turnovers and preserving a 17-14 victory
9 September 2007 - The head coaching matchup for this game at the Metrodome was Brad Childress against Bobby Petrino, a man that is no longer on Mike Zimmer’s Christmas card list. Though the buzz going into this one was largely centered on Minnesota’s newest weapon, a young running back named Adrian Peterson, defense was the name of the game for Minnesota in this one. The Vikings intercepted two passes from Joey Harrington, taking them both all the way back to the end zone for touchdowns. The first, a 54-yarder by Kevin Williams, still stands as the longest interception return for a score by a Vikings’ defensive lineman. The last one, a 14-yarder by Antoine Winfield, made things academic. In between, Peterson did make his mark, taking a swing pass from Tarvaris Jackson, bobbling it briefly, and then taking it 60 yards for his first NFL score. The Falcons’ offense did nothing on the afternoon, and the Vikings coasted to an easy 24-3 win.
Here’s hoping that the Vikings can run their record against the Falcons on opening weekend to 5-0 in Sunday’s matchup.