What are the best moments for each NFL franchise? Yahoo Sports provides our opinion, which you are free to disagree with (and we’re sure you will).
5. AP goes off
The Minnesota Vikings knew early that they had something special in Adrian Peterson in 2007, but in Week 8 the rookie put on a show. Peterson rushed for an NFL single-game record of 296 yards on 30 carries with three touchdowns in a 35-17 win over the San Diego Chargers in Minnesota. It was already the second 200-plus yard game of the season for Peterson, who’d finish his rookie campaign with 1,341 yards and 12 touchdowns. The bloom would fall off the rose of Peterson, but his arrival signaled the Vikings return to relevance in the post-Randy Moss/Cris Carter/Daunte Culpepper era.
4. 1998 – The regular season
Here’s a fun little fact: The 1998 Vikings scored more points than the 1999 “Greatest Show on Turf” Los Angeles Rams.
Minnesota steamrolled everyone on its way to a 15-1 regular season, piling up a then-record 556 points. A rejuvenated Randall Cunningham teamed with rookie Randy Moss and Cris Carter to form a potent offense. Moss would finish the year with 17 touchdowns and 1,313 yards. Carter would go for 12 TDs and 1,011 yards. Cunningham threw 34 touchdowns. The passing game was so good it’s easy to overlook 1,000-yard rusher Robert Smith and a defense that allowed the sixth-fewest points in the NFL that season.
By Week 5, Vikings fans probably got the feeling that something special was going on. Minnesota rolled into Green Bay on Monday night and came away with a 37-24 win on the strength of a 442-yard, four-touchdown night from Cunningham. Moss caught five passes for 190 yards and two TDs – a leaping, tackle-breaking 52-yarder followed by a 44-yard goal-line grab in double coverage. Carter’s eight catches for 119 yards were basically a footnote.
This season kicked off Minnesota’s most successful stretch since Bud Grant was on the sidelines (the first time around).
3. The Purple People Eaters
In 1969, Minnesota sent its entire defensive front four to the Pro Bowl. Pretty impressive.
Carl Eller, Gary Larsen, Jim Marshall and Alan Page combined to lead one of the most feared defenses in NFL history, and that season had the league’s stingiest defense, allowing just 9.5 points per game. The unit’s motto was “meet at the quarterback” and that happened a lot – while sacks didn’t become an official stat until 1982, the Vikings recognize Eller as the franchise leader with 130 followed by Marshall (127).
In 1971, Page made history as the first defensive player to win the NFL’s MVP award (only Lawrence Taylor has done it since), and both he and Eller are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, while Marshall is widely viewed as one of Canton’s biggest snubs.
There are reels and reels of the group terrorizing quarterbacks and offensive lineman – Packers legend Jerry Kramer once said that any time he second-guessed his decision to retire, all he had to do was think of facing Page to remind himself that it was the right one – but one play from a Thanksgiving Day game in 1969 best sums up this group.
Page pressured Detroit Lions quarterback Greg Landry, tipping his pass into the air. Marshall secured the wobbling duck and rumbled down the sideline before two Lions caught up to him. Without looking, Marshall lateraled the ball to Page, who took it the final 15 yards for the score.
2. Minnesota Miracle
Go ahead and accuse us of recency bias – it’s fine. We’re just going to call it what it is: one of the best plays in postseason history.
The Vikings’ tortured history is well-documented – here and elsewhere – so when they blew a 23-21 lead to the New Orleans Saints with 25 seconds to go (after clawing out of a 17-0 hole) in the 2018 playoffs, you couldn’t blame any Minnesotan for saying, “Here we go again.”
But Case Keenum and Stefon Diggs somehow made magic happen – with an assist from the Saints’ Marcus Williams – connecting on a 61-yard game-ending touchdown, the first time in NFL history that a playoff game ended in regulation with a walk-off touchdown. Vikings 29, Saints 24.
Add in that Minnesota had already run the play twice in that game and the fact that the call was for Diggs, who, teammates say, “never” made the catch in the “million times” they practiced it, and, well, it just adds to the backstory of a dramatic finish that will be told for generations in the Upper Midwest.
Over time, stories tend to get a little more unbelievable – the rainstorm your grandfather walked to school in that one time slowly grew into a week-long blizzard, that kind of stuff. But it’s gonna be hard to embellish the already incredible series of events that led to the Minnesota Miracle.
1. Hiring Bud Grant
When the marriage between the Vikings and Norm Van Brocklin crumbled, Minnesota looked to Bud Grant to pick up the pieces.
One of the most decorated athletes in the history of the state, Grant was piling up the wins in the Canadian Football League, where he won four Grey Cups, when the Vikings came calling in 1967. He didn’t find success immediately in Minnesota – the Vikes were 3-8-3 in his first year – but he was able to build them into a contender, something Van Brocklin, the Hall of Fame player-turned coach, couldn’t do. Three years into his tenure he’d have the Vikings in the Super Bowl; he’d get the team back there three more times but the Super Bowl was elusive for Grant. His teams won 11 division titles and he established Minnesota as a contender, racking up 158 wins in his career.
Plus, there’s his yard sale and he’s also the answer to a great Super Bowl trivia question: Name the only Super Bowl coach who also won an NBA championship as a player. You can thank coach Grant when you drop that one at your Super Bowl party.