10. 1996 Denver at Minnesota: I was a freshman in high school. It was a Week 13 game. The Broncos were the best team in football and came in with a 10-1 record. John Elway, Terrell Davis, Shannon Sharpe, Steve Atwater, etc. The Vikings had talent (as they always did in the 90s under Denny Green) but had underachieved thus-far. Entering the game at 6-5, they found themselves in the familiar position of scratching and clawing for a playoff spot. They had just benched Warren Moon for the healthy and more limber Brad Johnson. They still had their two big playmaking wide receivers in Jake Reed and Cris Carter, but Robert Smith was out with an injury, (no surprise to any Viking fan) making Leroy Hoard the featured running back.
It was a tight game. Minnesota basically dictated the tempo. But it really came down to two plays. With the Vikings up by 3 and 1:27 to go in the game, Denver found themselves in 4th and short at the Minnesota 13 yard line and elected to go for it. Surprisingly they went play action and Elway hit some running back out of the backfield who was immediately smothered by Vikings Linebacker Jeff Brady at the line of scrimmage. Some dumbass referee came running in there with a spot that gave the guy about a yard more on his forward progress. In short, it was a terrible spot. No Instant replay. Denver first down. Flash forward to 27 seconds left, Denver has the ball on the Vikings five yard line and it’s 3rd and Goal. Elway throws a ball over the middle into three Vikings defenders. One guy gets a hand on it and tips it high into the air. The same guy gathers underneath to pick it off, another guy comes flying in and tips it away from him while colliding into each other. The ball falls into Bronco’s wide receiver Ed McCaffery’s hands and he falls back into the end zone. Touchdown. Ball game. No exaggeration as seen here.
The game was brutal. At that time in my life I literally wish if something like that was going to happen, that it would have come at the hands of any other team. The next day I had to go to school and listen to Kolter Knutson talk and talk and talk. So annoying.
9. 1997 Detroit at Minnesota: I was a sophomore in high school. It was a Week 16 game. The Vikings defense had dominated Barry Sanders in the first half and lead 13-7 at halftime. The defense kept making stops and getting turnovers in the 2nd half but the offense couldn’t do anything. But 13-7 figured to be good enough to win after Vikings linebacker Ed McDaniel picked off a pass from Scott Mitchell and returned it to the Detroit 20 yard line with under three minutes to go. I remember thinking even if Detroit has all of their timeouts we just need to hit a field goal here and that’ll do it (there’s a theme developing here). But 85-year-old place kicker Eddie Murray missed a 38 yard field goal with 1:56 left on the clock. Then Detroit nickel-and-dimed Minnesota all the way down the field. It felt like Scott Mitchell completed 20 passes on the drive. Then a bogus pass interference call gave Detroit a first and goal at the one with only 6 seconds left. No timeouts. I stood up on the couch yelling at the TV screen “Put two guys on Moore! Timeout! Get another guy up there!” They didn’t listen. 6’4″ Herman Moore was lined up out wide, on the top of our screen, in single coverage. Scott Mitchell easily completed the game winning TD. Typical Vikings. I think everyone watching that game knew where the ball was going, except for the Minnesota coaching staff. Here’s the visual evidence. It was the Vikings 5th straight loss after starting 8-2 that year.
8. 2000 Minnesota at New York Giants: My freshman year of college. My dorm roommate in school was a Giants fan. I was home for Christmas break. It was the NFC Championship game. I woke up that morning thinking the Vikings were going to the Super Bowl. A few hours later the season was over. Giants 41 Vikings 0. 14-0 before the Vikings took an offensive snap. Thanks for that one boys.
7. This year’s Seattle game: My feelings on this game have already been well documented on this site. I’ll refer you back to it here.
6. 2018 Buffalo at Minnesota: It was week 3 of Kirk Cousins first year. I was thinking they were good enough to make it to the super bowl. The Vikings came into the game at 1-0-1, while the Bills were widely considered the worst team in football and came in at 0-2. Buffalo was so bad, the week before Bills cornerback Vontae Davis abruptly retired (quit the team) at halftime. I believe it was Josh Allen’s first or second career start. The Bills entered the game as 17 point underdogs.
The Bills lead 27-0 at halftime.
And it could’ve been worse. The Bills dropped a deep ball and a touchdown pass in route to settling for field goals. Cousins was sacked a billion times in the game. He turned it over three times (2 fumbles, 1 INT). The signature moment of the game came with the Bills up 10-0 in the first quarter. Josh Allen scrambled up the middle on 3rd and 10 and literally jumped over a flat-footed Anthony Barr, landed on his feet, and kept running for the 1st down. It was the biggest upset the NFL had seen in 23 years. Not since the heavily favored Cowboys (-17.5) lost to the Redskins in 1995 had the league seen such a thing. And it wasn’t even close. Just an afternoon of sitting there embarrassed while Curt Nebel (big Bills fan) blows up my phone with text messages. This marvelous effort can be seen here. Final score 27-6. Thanks fellas.
5. 2003 Vikings at Cardinals: It was the last week of the season. The Vikings just needed to win to make the playoffs, and, as a bonus, a victory would also knock Green Bay out of the postseason. Big game. You’d think they’d be up for it. I was still in college, watching the game on Redpath’s couch. So many things had to fall in place perfectly for the Vikings to lose this game the way that they did. I’ll do my best to explain them.
The Vikings had a ‘comfortable’ 17-6 lead with around three minutes to go in the game. Arizona managed to score a touchdown and missed the 2-point conversion leaving the score 17-12 with 1:54 to go. Having only one timeout left, Arizona had to try an onside kick. As Daunte Culpepper and a few of his other idiot offensive teammates strutted the sidelines, smiling, laughing, and congratulating each other on a hard fought win, the Cardinals took advantage of the Vikings special teams stupidity and recovered the kick. The ball didn’t even go ten yards but one of those idiots tried to be a hero and go get it, unsuccessfully. The ball bounced off a Viking player’s chest and found its way into some open space where a Cardinal player easily recovered. The look on Coach Mike Tice’s face was classic. He didn’t even think it was a possibility. The Cardinals first play after the recovery netted a pass interference call against the Vikings and put them down around the 25-35 yard line. A couple plays later they were down inside the 15. The Vikings got a stop on first down and Kevin Williams, a rookie at the time, got a big sack on a 2nd down play that forced Arizona to use their last timeout. What followed, with the next two plays, was chaos. On third down the Cardinals offensive line simply crumbled, it looked like every single one of them got beat. One of several Viking defenders forced Arizona quarterback Josh McCown to fumble. Arizona somehow recovered, (of course they did) but the clock was ticking. Remember they had no timeouts. The Cardinals players were scrambling around trying to get back to the line of scrimmage as the referees were doing their best to spot the ball as fast as they could. It was 4th and 24 with four seconds left on the clock after the dust had settled. Arizona was out of their comfort zone when they snapped the ball, but pressure from the outside forced McCown inside and then moved him effortlessly back out of the pocket. It seemed to remove any discomfort he might have had during the initial pressure. As he scrambled he had time to settle in and survey the field. He pointed one of his receivers in the direction he wanted him to go and unloaded the ball deep toward the sidelines. Two Viking defenders could do nothing as they watched little known receiver Nate Poole catch a perfectly thrown ball in the back of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. Poole didn’t get two feet inbounds, but in 2003 officials could rule on the field a ‘force out’, meaning they determined the receiver would have caught the ball had he not been shoved out of bounds by a defender while in the air, and give them credit for a reception. What’s worse is once this ruling was made it was non-reviewable. The icing on the cake, of course, is a few years later they changed that rule. It no longer exists. In today’s NFL defenders are taught to do what those two Vikings defenders did in that situation and push you out of bounds. This is a quick clip that doesn’t tell the whole story, but it’s hilarious because it’s the Vikings hometown announcers on the call. The Vikings started 6-0 that season and missed the playoffs. The Cardinals win improved their final season tally to 4-12.
4. 2000 Vikings at Packers: I was a freshman in college, watching in my dorm room with a couple guys. Pizza, beer, and hopefully a Vikings victory over the Packers on a Monday night. Life was good. The Vikings entered the game with a 7-1 record, Green Bay was 3-5 going in. I don’t remember many details about this game at all except for the main one. It was tied in overtime, Favre threw the ball up to Antonio Freeman and the Packers did what they always do. Get lucky, get every break, get every call, etc. Vikings defensive back Cris Dishman had Freeman in perfect coverage and almost intercepted the pass, getting a hand on it. Freeman had fallen down behind the play and was just laying there. The ball defied gravity and laid on every single part of his body without hitting the ground. He finally corralled it, got up, avoided an idiot Viking tackler flying across the screen, and scored. I didn’t have to see it a second time to confirm, I knew it was a TD right away. As I watched replay after replay in my dorm room, some guy I’d never met walked in, having seen none of the game, and after silently watching a couple of the replays announced if that kind of play happened to his favorite team he’d just decline it. Oh. That makes sense. I gritted my teeth together, somehow avoiding all the obvious asshole comments I could’ve made that were available for him. I was so mad. Here’s the visual.
3. 2009 Saints at Vikings: It was the NFC championship game. The Vikings had brought in Brett Favre and added him to a very talented mix of players on offense in hopes, even at 40 years old, that he’d get them over the hump. All year long he played great. When he was in Green Bay he would always throw interceptions. Even in his prime MVP years he was prone to giving the other team multiple chances at INT’s. He took chances. He was a ‘gunslinger’. But in 2009 there was none of that. I kept waiting for it to happen, but game after game he took care of the ball and the Vikings explosive offense rolled into the NFC championship game with a realistic chance of winning. I was nervous that day but I also had a good feeling the Vikings would win. It was all right there for them. With not much time at all left in regulation the Vikings needed only a few more yards to get into Ryan Longwell’s field goal range. I’d argue he had a chance to hit it from where they were (56 yards). Regardless, Favre rolled to his right and it looked like he could’ve run for 5-10 yards, but he choose that moment to finally be the Brett Favre I had been waiting for to show up all year. He threw back across his body, like all good high school quarterbacks know not to do, and found a Saints defender waiting for it. The Vikings never got the ball in overtime. The Saints marched right down the field and kicked a field goal to win. I took the one and only shot of tequila I’ve ever had in my life that night and later sang karaoke in a bar all by myself after my last buddy had gone home for the evening. Escape Club’s Wild Wild West. Sadly I blamed myself for the loss. The years had taught me nothing. Before the game I texted a buddy of mine what he thought the final score would be, he texted back ’31-28 Vikings.’ With the score tied at 28-28 a few plays before the Favre interception, I called my buddy to tell him he was gonna be right. The next two plays were a too many men in the huddle penalty and the Favre disaster. I did it to myself. I jinxed it. Couldn’t help myself. Here’s the only highlight of the game that matters.
2. 2015 Seahawks at Vikings: It was the wild card round of the playoffs. The Vikings had won the division that year with an 11-5 record and was hosting Seattle outdoors in Minneapolis. In was -6 degrees Fahrenheit. Teddy and the Vikings were ready. Playing against a team who had blown them out 38-7 six weeks earlier. Teddy lead them down the field several times, he never made any mistakes, and with three Blair Walsh made field goals of 22, 43, and 47, the Vikings lead 3-0 at halftime and 9-0 after the third quarter. Russell Wilson came up with some sort of magical scramble and completed a miracle pass that lead to a touchdown to make the game 9-7, and on the ensuing drive Adrian Peterson fumbled, like always, Seattle recovered in Minnesota territory and came away with a field goal to make it 10-9. The two teams then traded punts back and forth before Teddy lead his team 52 yards down the field and put the Vikings just one 27-yard field goal away from advancing. Blair Walsh, from the left hash-mark, hooked it and Seattle moved on. I was sitting at a bar in Texas with Doan and my girlfriend (future wife) when he missed the kick. I just walked out of the door. Walked around outside for probably 10 or 15 minutes shaking my head, cursing, and feeling bad for myself all at the same time. I’m not even sure how well Doan knew Tabitha at the time. Maybe they got to know each other a lot better sitting there by themselves while I was gone. It’s too bad for Walsh. It was freezing that day. The third coldest game played in NFL history. And he had already banged 3 in, but he just choked. He had always been a good kicker up to that point. But he was never the same after that. The Vikings cut him in the middle of the season the next year when he kept struggling. Seattle had him for a year in 2017 and he’s basically been unemployed since. He never recovered. And neither have I. Here’s the Vikings hometown announcing team on the call.
1. 1998 Falcons at Vikings: The best season of Vikings football I’ve ever personally witnessed was 1998. The team went 15-1 during the year and set all sorts of new NFL scoring records at the time. I’ve talked plenty about this team on this platform. Gary Anderson missed a 39 yard field goal that would have put Minnesota up 10 with just over two minutes to go in the game. The consensus thinking was a made field goal there would’ve ended the game. I’m so tired of thinking and talking about this team. They blew it. That was the team that should’ve been the one super bowl winner of my lifetime. All the stars had aligned. No other highlights or descriptions of this game necessary. Just time to wallow in depression.