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A Brief Look at Vikings/49ers Playoff History

It. . .hasn’t been pretty for Minnesota

1987 NFC Divisional Playoff Game - Minnesota Vikings vs San Francisco 49ers - January 9, 1988

With a new opponent this week, it’s time for us to take a look back at the playoff history between the Minnesota Vikings and their opponent this week. On Saturday, the Vikings travel to San Francisco Santa Clara to take on the #1 seed in the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers, and hope to put a more positive mark on the playoff history between these two teams than what they’ve put up in the past.

This will be the sixth time that the Vikings and 49ers have met in the playoffs, and the fifth time they have done so on the West Coast. It hasn’t been pretty for the Vikings for the most part. In those first five games, the Vikings have put up a record of just 1-4 against the Niners, including a 1-3 mark in San Francisco. I think we can all agree that the one win was pretty darn glorious, but outside of that it’s been kind of ugly for our favorite football team.

Here’s a brief look back at the previous postseason matchups between these two teams, with facts and figures provided by the good folks at Pro Football Reference.

27 December 1970 - San Francisco 49ers 17, Minnesota Vikings 14

The only playoff matchup in the Great White North between these two teams happened a little over 49 years ago at Metropolitan Stadium. The Vikings actually got on the board first, courtesy of a 22-yard fumble return by Paul Krause to take a 7-0 lead. The Niners would score the next 17 points, however, and get a 1-yard touchdown run from John Brodie to take a 17-7 lead in the fourth quarter. Gene Washington did catch a 24-yard touchdown pass from Gary Cuozzo to close the gap, but it wasn’t enough as the Niners walked away with the win. Cuozzo had a particularly ugly game, completing just 9-of-27 passes and throwing a pair of interceptions.

The Niners would go on to lose the NFC Championship Game to the Dallas Cowboys, who beat the Detroit Lions by a score of 5-0 in their first playoff game. The Cowboys would defeat the 49ers in that game to advance to Super Bowl V.

9 January 1988 - Minnesota Vikings 36, San Francisco 49ers 24

Yes, this is the one everyone remembers, and it was 32 years ago today, even! (Well, as I write this, it’s still 9 January in the Twin Cities.) Much like this year’s team, the Vikings were coming off of an upset of the Saints in the Wild Card round, and the Niners were the top seed in the NFC.

The only scoring in the first quarter came courtesy of a field goal for each team. The Vikings came alive in the second quarter, as they scored 17 unanswered points (capped by a 45-yard interception return by Najee Mustafaa) to take a 20-3 lead into the locker room. The Niners started the second half with a pick-six of their own to make it 20-10, but the Vikings got a touchdown pass from Wade Wilson to Hassan Jones to make it a 17-point lead again. Minnesota stayed in control the rest of the way, and the game got to the point where the legendary Joe Montana was eventually benched for his backup, some guy named Steve Young.

Anthony Carter blew up in a big way in this one, as he set a Vikings’ team record (postseason or otherwise) with 227 receiving yards on ten catches, and threw in a 30-yard rush for good measure.

Unfortunately, the Vikings would go on to lose the NFC Championship Game to the eventual Super Bowl champions that year, the Washington Redskins.

1 January 1989 - San Francisco 49ers 34, Minnesota Vikings 9

It was definitely not a happy new year for the Vikings when these two teams met in the playoffs less than a year after their previous playoff tilt. The Vikings got on the board first on a field goal from Chuck Nelson, but things quickly got away from Jerry Burns and company after that, as three touchdown passes from Montana to Jerry Rice gave the home team a 21-3 lead going into the locker room at halftime.

The Vikings got the only points of the third quarter on a touchdown pass from Wade Wilson to Hassan Jones (and a missed extra point) to make it 21-9, but two touchdown runs from Roger Craig, including an 8-0-yarder, to mercifully end this one. The Niners would go on to defeat the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game, and then defeat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.

6 January 1990 - San Francisco 49ers 41, Minnesota Vikings 13

For the third year in a row, the Vikings and 49ers met in the NFC playoffs. . .and for the second year in a row, it got ugly in a hurry for Minnesota. As it did the previous year, a Minnesota field goal put the first points of the game on the board. And, as it happened the previous year, Joe Montana ripped the Vikings’ defense apart, putting up four first half touchdown passes: Two to Rice, one to Brent Jones, and one to John Taylor. That gave the Niners a 27-3 lead at halftime, and it didn’t get any better from there. A pick-six for Ronnie Lott and a touchdown run for Craig eventually pushed the lead to as high as 41-6 before Rick Fenney found the end zone in the fourth quarter for the final margin.

The Niners would go on to win their second straight Super Bowl, throttling the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game before crushing the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV.

3 January 1998 - San Francisco 49ers 38, Minnesota Vikings 22

Yes, the Niners got another postseason blowout win over the Vikings the last time these two teams played in the playoffs. In this one, the Vikings managed to finish the first quarter tied with the Niners, courtesy of a 66-yard touchdown pass from Randall Cunningham to Cris Carter. In the second quarter, however, the Vikings got a 1-yard touchdown run from Terry Kirby and a pick-six from Ken Norton Jr. to take a 21-7 lead at halftime. The Vikings got as close as 24-14 in the third quarter, thanks to another Cunningham to Carter touchdown pass, but the Niners got another touchdown from Kirby and a touchdown pass from Steve Young to Terrell Owens to put themselves ahead 38-14. Cunningham threw a third touchdown pass, this one to Matthew Hatchette, but it wasn’t nearly enough.

The Niners would then go on to lose the NFC Championship Game to the Green Bay Packers, who in turn would go on to lose to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXII.

So, that’s the rather ugly. . .at least from a Vikings’ perspective. . .history between the Minnesota Vikings and the San Francisco 49ers. Can the Vikings boost their standing in this series a bit on Saturday afternoon?