MINNEAPOLIS — Missed field goals, dropped passes, shutouts, blowouts and Super Bowl stinkers.
In their 60th season, this team has produced a slew of horrific starts and finishes in games that matter the most — the playoffs.
That’s the Minnesota Vikings, arguably the best NFL franchise never to win a Super Bowl. (Hello, Buffalo.) So many moments, so during the milestone anniversary season of the team, it was time to rank them.
Gary, Darrin, Blair and Brett. We’re on a first-name basis with whose names have become synonymous with what went wrong instead of what went right.
During a two-week stretch this fall, readers across Forum Communications’ websites ranked their top lowlights of the Minnesota Vikings from a pre-selected list of 17 compiled by our sports reporters.
Grab a tissue. The purple pain is about to begin.
January 17, 1999... 21 years ago today!— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) January 18, 2020
NFC Championship: Falcons @ Vikings (-10.5)
Gary Anderson had made 122 consecutive kicks.
38-yard field goal to seal the game... What could possibly go wrong? pic.twitter.com/v39HQWwvOL
1. 1998 NFC Championship loss
It started as a murmur as Gary Anderson trotted onto the Metrodome field with just more than 2 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter of the 1998 NFC Championship Game against Atlanta. Anderson had not missed a kick all season, a fact not lost on the partisan crowd that quickly built up a loud chant of “Su-Per Bowl! Su-Per Bowl!” as Mitch Berger took a knee to hold for Anderson. The Vikings led 27-20. A field goal would send them to the Super Bowl for the first time in more than 20 years.
Anderson got the kick off on time, but the crowd stayed silent as the ball sailed through the air. Wide left.
The Falcons seized the moment and quickly drove for a game-tying TD. Vikings QB Randall Cunningham took one late shot deep to Randy Moss, a ball that was barely overthrown. Then Denny Green ordered Cunningham to take a knee and take the game to OT.
The Vikings had two chances in OT, but had to punt twice before Atlanta’s Morten Andersen kicked a game-winning field goal.
That day introduced a whole new generation of Vikings fans to the heartbreak the franchise has made into an art form.
2. Vikings crumble in ’09 NFC title game
Nineteen seconds remained on the clock and Minnesota was, in theory, a 50-yard field goal away from winning the 2009 NFC Championship against New Orleans.
Twelve men on the field took that field position away, Brett Favre threw it away and the Saints played keep away, winning 31-28 on the only possession in overtime.
The result would change the way the NFL operates overtimes and uncovered much more. In 2012, the NFL completed its investigation into a bounty program involving the Saints, which led to fines, draft penalties and coaching suspensions.
Favre, 40, was one of the targets. The Vikings turned the ball over five times, including a banged-up Favre throwing his second interception with room to run to end their hopes.
Twelve percent of our readers ranked this as their top lowlight.
3. Another playoff miss
Not even a sleeveless Bud Grant, who served as an honorary captain, could turn the heartbreaking fortunes of his former team in this 2015 Wild Card game against Seattle.
At 6 below and minus-25 windchill, not even the Met played this cold. Outdoors at TCF Stadium during the two years U.S. Bank Stadium was under construction, Blair Walsh yanked a 27-yard field goal with 22 seconds remaining to give the Seahawks a 10-9 victory on Jan. 10, 2016.
“The whole thing is on me, and I accept that,” said Walsh, who connected on three other field goals in the game. “It is shameful. I have to do better.”
The Vikings cut Walsh nine games into the following season. In 2017, he played his final NFL season with Seattle.
4. Eagles bring Vikings down to Earth
Pass is CAUGHT! DIGGS! SIDELINE! TOUCHDOWN! UNBELIEVABLE! VIKINGS WIN IT!
On Jan. 21, 2018, the Vikings and their fans were still riding high on the miraculous finish that occurred a week earlier at U.S. Bank Stadium, when Case Keenum and Stefon Diggs combined to create the Minneapolis Miracle, beating the Saints in the most dramatic of fashions in an NFC playoff game.
The momentum carried over into the first drive of the following week’s NFC Championship Game at Philadelphia, when Keenum marched Minnesota down the field to a TD and a 7-0 lead. That was it for the Vikings, though. Four minutes later, Philly’s Patrick Robinson returned an interception 50 yards, starting a run of 38 consecutive points in the Eagles’ 38-7 victory.
Two weeks later, Philadelphia added a pound of salt to the wound by winning the Super Bowl in the Vikings’ home stadium.
5. ‘No deliberate push’
It was in 2016 when former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Drew Pearson, appearing on NBC Sports, stopped just short of saying he pushed off against Minnesota Vikings cornerback Nate Wright to haul in a 50-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass.
It gave the Cowboys a 17-14 victory and ended two straight trips to the Super Bowl for the Vikings.
"What I'm saying is there's contact, OK?" Pearson told NBC Sports. "We're actually playing football out there; it wasn't tennis or golf. So in doing that and making that move, there was contact on the play. But there was no deliberate push whatsoever."
The 50-yard play on Dec. 29, 1975, with 24 seconds left came from a high, arcing throw from quarterback Roger Staubach at old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minn.
The Vikings had taken a 14-10 lead in the fourth quarter on a touchdown run from Brent McClanahan. The Cowboys started their winning drive with 2 minutes remaining. On fourth down, Pearson went streaking toward the end zone.
"It was a lucky catch," Pearson would later say, "but the most important catch of my career."
6. Super disappointment in ‘70
NFL Films wired Kansas City Chiefs head coach Hank Stram with a microphone in Super Bowl IV and he didn’t disappoint. Neither did his team.
The Vikings were 13-point favorites in this final NFL-AFL matchup and lost by 16.
Going against a heavy defensive line, the Vikings rushed for only 67 yards with two first downs on the ground. Joe Kapp threw two of Minnesota’s three interceptions and Bill Brown had just 26 rushing yards.
Kansas City kicker Jan Stenerud, who would later join the Vikings in 1984, booted three first-half field goals as the Chiefs went on to win 23-7.
Perhaps the only postseason loss more embarrassing for Minnesota than the 31-point loss at Philadelphia in the 2017 NFC Championship Game was the utter disaster of a performance by the Vikings in the 2000 NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants.
The game that has become known simply as “41-doughnut” started with Kerry Collins throwing a 50-yard TD pass to Ike Hilliard 1:57 into the game. Moe Williams fumbled the ensuing kickoff, the Giants recovered and Collins threw an 18-yard TD pass to fullback — FULLBACK! — Greg Comella.
It was 14-0 Giants 2:13 into the game and it only got worse for the Vikings.
Collins passed for 381 yards and five touchdown passes and the Vikings managed all of 114 total yards.
Coach Denny Green was fired less than a year later and the Vikings didn’t win more than nine games in a season over the next eight years.
8. Herschel Walker trade
In 1989, believing that their running back problem could be a quick fix, general manager Mike Lynn shipped five players and six draft picks to Dallas for Herschel Walker — the largest trade ever in the NFL.
In his first game with Minnesota, Walker returned a kickoff to midfield and piled up 148 yards — famously losing a shoe on his first rush. But soon, his welcome waned.
A better runner in the “I” formation, Walker didn’t fit the Vikings offensive scheme, and produced only three more 100-yard rushing games during his 42-game stay. Meanwhile, Dallas used Minnesota’s draft picks to become a powerhouse of the 1990s.
9. Vikings lose third Super Bowl
Minnesota ran into Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain in this 16-6 loss in Super Bowl IX at Tulane Stadium in January 1975, the team’s third loss in the championship game.
The Steelers, a three-point favorite, held the Vikings to 17 rushing yards and 102 passing yards. Fran Tarkenton threw three interceptions. The only points Minnesota would muster was after Matt Blair blocked a punt and Terry Brown recovered it in the end zone.
Upset after officials initially ruled a Steelers fumble as a Vikings recovery on a fourth-quarter Pittsburgh TD drive, Bud Grant said after the game, "There were three bad teams out there — us, Pittsburgh and the officials.”
The game was moved from the Superdome in New Orleans since its construction was not completed.
10. Nelson can’t hang on
The Vikings, coming off a stunning 36-24 victory at San Francisco, were on the doorstep of their fifth Super Bowl appearance that ended in a 17-10 defeat to Washington in the 1987 NFC Championship game.
After a strike-riddled regular season, it came down to a fourth-and-4 play with 1:03 left from the Washington 6. Wade Wilson backpeddled and looked left for running back Darrin Nelson running along the goal line. Pass. Drop. Ballgame.
Washington’s Doug Williams finished with just 119 yards but became the first Black quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl, along with game MVP honors.
The next season, Nelson rushed just 380 yards — and led the team. The Vikings then turned to Herschel, which only compounded their problems.
Jeff Kolpack contributed to this report.
Look for our readers' top-10 highlights in franchise history next.