Vikings Fans Have Been Here Before
In other words, Vikings fans found themselves in a familiar place Sunday night. Here's a look at the four NFC Championship losses since Minnesota's last Super Bowl appearance, ranked in order of their soul-sucking ability to take Vikings' fans hopes and stomp them flat.
No. 4. Giants 41, Vikings 0, 2000 season.
Of the Vikings four most recent NFC Championship losses this is the only one where the Vikings didn't have a chance. After beating the Saints in the divisional round, Minnesota was blown out of the building against the Giants. Vikings' quarterback Daunte Culpepper was held to 60 net passing yards while the Giants rolled to 380 yards through the air and a 34-0 halftime lead. There was no "what-if" with this game, it was just a game you'd like to forget if you root for the Vikings.
No. 3. Redskins 17, Vikings 10, 1987 season.
For most teams, this would rank as one of the toughest losses in team history. Minnesota wasn't a dominating team in 1987--they were 8-7, but that record is misleading as three of the losses were recorded by the Vikings' replacement players.
Once Minnesota got into the playoffs the combination of the pass rush of Chris Doleman and Keith Millard and the deep threat of Anthony Carter got the better of New Orleans and San Francisco (Bill Walsh called it one of his most crushing losses ever). But in the NFC Championship game, Minnesota outplayed Washington and lost anyway.
Trailing 10-7 early in the fourth quarter, Minnesota had a first and goal from the three, tried to run up the middle three times and was forced to settle for a field goal. Washington then put together it's only long drive of the game for the go-ahead touchdown. Minnesota still had another chance--they drove the length of the field in the final five minutes, but on fourth and four at the Redskins' 6, running back Darrin Nelson couldn't hold on to a pass in the flats that would have been a first down and may have been a touchdown.
Not only was this loss a gut punch, but it was also the beginning of the end for the 1980s Vikings. Minnesota lost to the 49ers in the playoffs the next year and in frustration swung the infamous Herschel Walker trade in 1989.
No. 2. Saints 31, Vikings 28, 2009 season.
If Brett Favre throws one interception instead of two, Minnesota may be packing for Miami. Fumbling six times (and losing three of them) would be understandable if the Vikings had been playing outdoors on an ice rink, but it was inexplicable playing in a dome
Sitting in field goal range with the final seconds ticking off the clock, Minnesota managed to get a 12-men in the huddle penalty that forced the Vikings to call a pass play, which led to Favre's inexplicable decision to try to throw the ball back across his body across the field to a covered Sidney Rice. After the interception (which may be the last throw of Favre's career), Minnesota never got the ball in overtime.
No. 1. Falcons 30, Vikings 27, 1998 season.
As bad as tonight's loss is, it's still not the worse loss Vikings fans have endured in the past 15 years. If Gary Anderson makes a 38-yard field goal in the final minutes of regulation, we may be talking about the 1998 Vikings in the argument for the best team in NFL history. They were 15-1 in the regular season and scored an NFL record 556 points as rookie Randy Moss and Chris Carter proved to be the best pair of receivers in the league. The defense wasn't bad either.
But Anderson, who hadn't missed a field goal all season, missed the 38-yarder by a foot or two. Atlanta then drove the length of the field to tie the game in regulation and Morten Anderson won the game with an overtime field goal.