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Happy Birthday, Minnesota Vikings! A #TBT Trip Down Memory Lane

September 17, 2015

[caption id="attachment_1013" align="alignright" width="204"]Minnesota Vikings T-Shirt Today marks the 54th anniversary of the Minnesota Vikings' first game. Happy birthday, Vikings. Maybe one day you'll clutch the Lombardi Trophy. Until then, there's always beer.[/caption] By Bob D'Angelo, Smack Zone Contributor What will a Minnesota Vikings fan do after his team wins the Super Bowl? He’ll turn off his PlayStation 4. That joke might seem harsh, but a Vikings’ Super Bowl victory still remains elusive. Despite 27 playoff appearances, 18 division titles, nine conference final appearances, four conference titles, an NFL title and four Super Bowl appearances, the Vikings’ trophy case still lacks a Vince Lombardi Trophy. Even though they have won plenty of games, have scores of memorable moments and are well represented in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the Vikings have shown a penchant for weird safeties, bizarre finishes and heartbreaking losses, too. But oh, what a debut. On September 17, 1961, rookie quarterback Fran Tarkenton came off the bench, threw four touchdowns and ran for another as the Vikings stunned the Chicago Bears 37-13. A rookie throwing four touchdowns in his team’s opening game wouldn’t happen again until last Sunday, when Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota threw four — in the first half! — against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tarkenton’s performance might have been 1961’s highlight. First-year coach Norm Van Brocklin lamented that he had “36 stiffs,” a blunt yet astute observation that was borne out by a 3-11 record. ‘The Most Interesting Thing’ Even great players blundered. Future Hall of Famer Jim Marshall scooped up a Billy Kilmer fumble in an October 24, 1964, game against the 49ers and ran 66 yards — the wrong way. Marshall reached the end zone and tossed the ball, giving the 49ers a safety. Van Brocklin reportedly told the embarrassed Marshall that he “did the most interesting thing in this game today.” Marshall redeemed himself later. His sack caused a fumble that teammate Carl Eller returned for a touchdown, giving Minnesota a 27-22 victory. That helped Minnesota to its first winning season, an 8-5-1 mark. Speaking of safeties, the Vikings allowed the first one in Super Bowl history. In Super Bowl IX, Dave Osborn fumbled and Tarkenton covered the ball in the end zone, with Pittsburgh’s Dwight White getting credit for the tackle.  That gave the Steelers a 2-0 lead, and they would win the game 16-6. On November 5, 1989, the Vikings beat the Los Angeles Rams 23-21 at the Metrodome. Minnesota got seven field goals from Rich Karlis and won in overtime when Mike Merriweather blocked a Rams' punt that went out of the end zone for a safety. ‘A Terrible Waste’ [caption id="attachment_1014" align="alignleft" width="265"]Minnesota Vikings T-Shirt They haven't won a Super Bowl, but the Vikings don't lack for rivals.[/caption] The Vikings were on the wrong end of the most famous Hail Mary pass in NFL history. On December 28, 1975, in a first-round playoff game at Metropolitan Stadium, Minnesota led Dallas 14-10 with 32 seconds left and the Cowboys at midfield. Roger Staubach underthrew a pass to Drew Pearson, who pushed off Vikings safety Nate Wright, caught the ball on his hip and scored with 24 seconds to play. No flag was thrown. The best throw — and most unfortunate one — came moments later, when a fan hurled a full bottle of Jack Daniel’s and hit field judge Armen Terzian, the official who was closest to the controversial play, in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious. A shameful act — and a terrible waste of good liquor. More tragically for Tarkenton, his father, Rev. Dallas M. Tarkenton Sr., suffered a heart attack during the third quarter while watching the game on television at his Savannah, Georgia, home. The elder Tarkenton lost consciousness and died that day. Not everything has been dark for the Vikings. Tarkenton, the league MVP during that ill-fated 1975 season, became the first Minnesota player elected to the Hall of Fame, getting the call in 1986. He retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yardage (47,003), completions (3,686) and touchdown passes (342). ‘Purple People Eaters’ The Vikings had one of the top defenses in the NFL during the late 1960s and 1970s — the “Purple People Eaters.” Marshall, Eller, Alan Page and Gary Larson helped the Vikings reach three Super Bowls in four seasons. Marshall, Eller and Page all were inducted into the Hall of Fame.  In 1971, Page became the first defensive player to be named the league’s MVP. On Thanksgiving Day in 1969 against Detroit at Tiger Stadium, Marshall and Page used deft teamwork for a defensive touchdown. Page tipped a Greg Landry pass that Marshall intercepted. As Marshall was being tackled, he lateraled to Page, who completed the return for a touchdown, giving Minnesota a 24-0 lead; the Vikings won, 27-0. [caption id="attachment_1015" align="alignright" width="165"]The Vikings don't always win the Super Bowl, but ... wait. The Vikings NEVER win the Super Bowl. Stay hungry, my friends. The Vikings don't always win the Super Bowl, but ... wait. The Vikings NEVER win the Super Bowl. Stay hungry, my friends.[/caption] To prove that wasn’t a fluke, Marshall showcased his lateraling skills in 1970 against the Kansas City Chiefs. It was a Super Bowl IV rematch — the heavily favored Vikings were shocked by the Chiefs in the final NFL-AFL Super Bowl several months earlier — Marshall recovered a fumble, then lateraled to Roy Winston, who completed the 36-yard touchdown play. That gave the Vikings a 10-0 lead, and Minnesota won, 27-10. The Vikings even have their own version of a Hail Mary pass — the “Miracle at the Met.” On December 14, 1980, the Vikings trailed the Cleveland Browns by a point with 14 seconds left. Tommy Kramer got the Vikings to the Cleveland 46 thanks to a hook-and-lateral play. Kramer then tossed a desperation pass as time expired. Three Browns leaped for the ball, but tipped it to Vikings receiver Ahmad Rashad, who caught the pass and backpedaled across the goal line for the game-winning score in a 28-23 victory that clinched an NFC Central title for Minnesota. ‘Oh-and-Four’ The Vikings have a Hall of Fame coach, Bud Grant, who led the team to four Super Bowl appearances. That first Super Bowl loss was considered an upset, but the Vikings were underdogs when they lost Super Bowl VIII (to Miami), IX (to Pittsburgh) and XI (t0 Oakland). Center Mick Tinglehoff became the latest Viking inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he was enshrined in August. He joins Tarkenton, Page, Grant, Marshall, Eller, Paul Krause, former GM Jim Finks, Ron Yary, Randall McDaniel, John Randle, Chris Doleman and Cris Carter. Running back Adrian Peterson had a monumental season in 2012, rushing for 2,097 yards — the second best rushing season in NFL history behind Eric Dickerson’s 2,105 yards in 1984. In 2009, longtime Vikings nemesis Brett Favre joined Minnesota and threw for 4,202 yards and 33 touchdowns. For added measure, he beat his former team — the Green Bay Packers — twice that year, including a four-touchdown masterpiece at Lambeau Field. ‘An Amazing Dream’ Still, Vikings fans dwell on the what-could-have been scenarios. The 1998 squad went 15-1 during the regular season (losing only to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), crushed Arizona in the divisional round but lost 30-27 in overtime to Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game. Gary Anderson missed his first field goal attempt of the season, a 38-yarder, late in the fourth quarter. The Falcons tied the game in the final minute and won with 11:52 left in OT Morten Anderson’s 38-yard field goal. The 2009 team also lost an NFC title game in overtime, falling 31-28 to New Orleans at the Superdome despite three touchdowns by Adrian Peterson. Favre’s interception late in the fourth quarter helped send the game to overtime. Not a laughing matter, but Vikings jokes still flourish. What did the Vikings fan say after his team won the Super Bowl? “Why did you wake me up? I was having an amazing dream!”


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