SUPER BOWL XI RUNNER UP 1976 MINNESOTA VIKINGS

January 9, 1977 was a day that the Minnesota Vikings again fell short of the Super Bowl win they so desperately wanted.  The 32-14 loss to the Oakland Raiders was the last hurrah for a team that dominated the NFC for much of the 1970s. They almost went to 4 Super Bowls in a row.  That famous “Hail Mary” against Dallas in the ’75 NFC Divisional playoff should have been called pass interference on Drew Pearson.

vikxiThink of how rewritten the 1970s in the NFL would have been had they won those Super Bowls…

  • Had they won Super Bowl IV against the Chiefs there would still be talk of inferiority between the AFL and NFL even though they were merging the following year.
  • Had they won Super Bowl VIII in Chuck Foreman’s (The U) rookie year the Dolphins do not repeat and do not become a dynasty.
  • Had they won the next year in Super Bowl IX the Steelers dynasty does not take place.
  • Which leads to Super Bowl XI, had the Vikings won that gamevikxi.1 it would have added to Oakland’s (at that time) failed legacy and would have handed them their 8th loss in AFL or AFC Championship games including 2 Super Bowls in 10 years.

 

This team has never received their due.  They dominated the black and blue division and were the scourge of the NFC for many years.  The legacy of the players was too damaged for not winning the Super Bowl.  Come on, the length of time it took for Paul Krause, the NFL’s all time leading interceptor, to get into the Hall of Fame was ridiculous.  The fact that Jim Marshall and Chuck Foreman aren’t in the Hall is a travesty.

11This team was one of the best in the 1970s and this team was the last one to reach the Super Bowl.  Buddy Ryan coaxed a good year out of a “Purple People Eater’s” defense that was aging. Ahmad Rashad and Sammy White were decent receivers and the aforementioned Chuck Foreman (The U) teamed with Fran Tarkenton (the all time touchdown and yardage leader at the time) to form a formidable offense.

An interesting contrast in handling coming up short in the Super Bowl is between Fran Tarkenton and Head Coach Bud Grant. Tarkenton told NFL Films how those games have haunted him all these years. How it robbed the Vikings of their dignity and celebrity which cost teammates Hall of Fame votes. Where Bud Grant said he never looked at any of them on field and it doesn’t bother him one bit. Always looking ahead.

super-bowl-logo-1976Yet if you catch the end of Super Bowl XI as the cameras panned the Viking sideline, you could see a deep hurt in every Viking player’s face. It was as though you could see the last of their prime as an elite team evaporate from the players as the final moments ticked down. Unlike the Buffalo Bills 4 year Super Bowl run, this one lasted 8 years starting with their appearance in IV.

Chuck Foreman only had 1 more 1,000 yard season in 1977 before his career wound down. DT Alan Page was with the Chicago Bears in 1978, Jim Marshall, Carl Eller, and Fran Tarkenton were gone after 1979. Even Metropolitan Stadium was gone by 1982 as the team moved indoors with the Metrodome. The end of an era for a once proud franchise. One last look back is in order:

This was the last conference championship ring the Minnesota Vikings won.  1976 NFC Champions.

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Best Finish To An NFL Game Ever: Hail Mary -1980 Vikings v. Browns

Metropolitan Stadium

Everyone loves a fantastic finish and we feel as though NFL Films and such focus too much on the glamour teams. They leave too many great moments on the cutting room floor if it’s not Dallas, Pittsburgh, or Green Bay. What if we were to tell you that a team actually completed a hook and lateral (not ladder) and a hail mary to finish a game?? Yes everyone remembers the hook and lateral in the ’81 AFC Divisional Playoff between San Diego and Miami, yet we’re going to take you to one that was even better. It was the last great moment in the 21 years Metropolitan Stadium served the Minnesota Vikings.

It was 1980 and the ink was just drying on the Nation’s newspapers of Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory over incumbent President Jimmy Carter. The Iran hostage situation was over 400 days old and we were completing the 1980 NFL Season. Teams were just now fully understanding the capabilities afforded them when the NFL loosened it’s rules on passing before the 1978 season. The ball was able to be thrown and touch multiple receivers without having to hit a defender in the interim giving birth to the Hail Mary.

Hall of Fame Viking Coach, Bud Grant

The Minnesota Vikings had just said goodbye to Hall of Fame QB Fran Tarkenton, the league’s All Time yardage and touchdown passing leader. In stepped Tommy Kramer, who had none of the big game moxie of a Tarkenton. He was a poor man’s Danny White in that he followed the most revered quarterback in the team’s history.

After losing the fourth game to the 4-0 Detroit Lions, 27-20, it looked as though the Vikings had indeed passed the baton. However with a strong finishing kick they went into the penultimate game of the season with an 8-6 record. If they could win the 15th game, they would win Bud Grant his 11th NFC Central Division Tltle. Their opponent  going into that game was no slouch.

In came the 10-4 Cleveland Browns and Sam Rutigliano. He was in his third year and on his way to his second straight NFL Coach of the Year award for breathing life into a moribund franchise. In those years they were known for their ability to win a game in the final seconds and had performed that feat 14 times in the last two years with less than 2 minutes remaining  in the game. Moreover this was the Browns first real winning season in nearly 10 years. What better chance to show that they had arrived than to go on the road and win in a tough NFC camp and finish off the Viking’s season.

So on a cold day the Browns took the field and roared to a 23-9 lead and the Vikings looked cold on their sideline as the 3rd quarter ended. Then the Browns started playing conservatively and played close to the vest as the Vikings roared back.

After the Vikings scored 2 touchdowns to trim the Browns lead to 23-22. The Browns had the ball and drove toward midfield yet the Vikings defense held and forced the Browns to punt and pin Minnesota at their own 20 yard line. There was less than :20 left in the game. Time for daring and time for one final drive to win the NFC Central Division championship for their coach. This is what took place…

Epilogue: The Vikings running a hook and lateral on the opposite of the three receivers look on a Hail Mary was beautiful and I can’t remember anyone running it like that since.  By the way, do you know who the Cleveland Browns linebacker #53, who was beaten on the play was?? Try former Pittsburgh Steeler Coach Bill Cowher. Yet this team covered 80 yards in 2 plays to earn Hall of Fame coach Bud Grant his 11th and final NFC Central Division title. However they went down to the eventual NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles in the ’80 NFC Divisional round of the playoffs 31-16.

Mike Davis intercepts Brian Sipe’s pass for Ozzie Newsome to end the Brown’s season 14-12, in the 1980 playoffs.

On that exact same weekend the “Cardiac Kids” Cleveland Browns lost in the ’80 AFC Divisional Round to the Oakland Raiders 14-12. This game was made famous for “Red Right 88”. The tail end of a play’s assignment that had the Browns throw to the tight end in -42* weather rather than kick the obvious field goal. It was 3rd down and Coach Rutigliano opted to go for the endzone one more time. Only to have Raider Safety Mike Davis step in for a game clinching interception to end the Browns season. However the Browns had two kicks blocked in that game which was one of the coldest in NFL history.

However for one  magnificent drive, Tommy Kramer, Ted Brown, and Ahmad Rashad gave Viking fans the last great moment in Metropolitan Stadium. Within 2 years they would move indoors and the Viking franchise hasn’t been the same since. Hopefully they can get a new stadium deal and go back outside where the Vikings should be.

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