Throwback Thursday: Gary Anderson Missed FG Ends Dominant Run by Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings were thought of as one of the unluckiest franchises in the NFL but the tide seemed to be turning in their favor in 1998. Right up until it didn't.
The Vikings were playoff contenders under head coach Dennis Green throughout the 1990s which gave their fans a sense that the dark days were over. The franchise became the first to appear in four Super Bowls but also became the first to lose four Super Bowls as well. This includes devastating losses to the Dallas Cowboys on a 50-yard touchdown pass in the final seconds of a 1975 Divisional round playoff game and a heartbreaker in 1987 when Darrin Nelson dropped a game-tying touchdown pass in the NFC Championship Game.
But in 1998, everything seemed to be on the upswing for the Vikings. In the NFL Draft, the team selected future Hall of Famer Randy Moss. The troubled WR showcased his talent by setting an NFL record for most touchdown receptions by a rookie (17) and with teammates Cris Carter and Randall Cunningham, helped the Vikings set the NFL record for most points scored by a team in a single season (556).
The team would finish at 15-1 and held the top seed in the NFC Playoffs. The team seemed unstoppable and many expected the Vikings to make a trip to the Super Bowl once again. Part of the team's success was due in part to kicker Gary Anderson. The Vikings special teams star became the first kicker in NFL history to convert on every field goal and extra point attempt in a single season.
The Vikings would end up playing against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game. At halftime, the Vikings held the lead at 20-14 but the Falcons refused to go away, keeping within one score of the Vikings throughout the second half. With less than six minutes left in the game, the Vikings took the ball and moved to the Falcons' 22-yard line.
Anderson came onto the field for a very makeable field goal that would've all but sealed a win for the Vikings. At 30-20, the Falcons would've been hard-pressed to mount a comeback with just two minutes left in the game. The Vikings snapped the ball and as Anderson launched the ball at the uprights, the ball sailed wide left. It was Anderson's first miss since Dec. 15, 1997.
The team still held a lead but it seemed the air had been sucked out of the Vikings players after Anderson's miss. The Falcons would take over and march down the field. Vikings safety Robert Griffith dropped a sure interception that would've also sealed the game. On the very next play, the Falcons tied the game with 49 seconds remaining.
In overtime, both teams struggled to move the ball and took turns punting to one another. Eventually, the Falcons would make it to the Vikings' 21-yard line before Falcons kicker Morten Anderson converted a 38-yard field goal to give the underdog Falcons a win along with a trip to the Super Bowl.
Anderson's missed field goal and subsequent loss by the Vikings was a moment of heartbreak that shattered the Vikings fanbase and Minnesota sports culture. Multiple NFL analysts, coaches and players have cited the despair felt by Anderson's missed kick and the team not winning the Super Bowl after being one of the most dominant teams in NFL history.