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Continued: Vikings' greatest upset was vs. 49ers

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: December 9, 2007 - 9:59 AM

The Vikings go into today's game at San Francisco with an overall record of 19-22-1 against the 49ers.

They are 12-9 at home and a poor 7-13-1 on the road against them, including last year's 9-3 upset by the 49ers.

Of that long series, the home game loss that hurt the worst was in 1970, when the 49ers eliminated the Vikings 17-14 in the playoffs.

Of those road victories, the biggest surprise was in the 1987 strike year, when the Vikings wound up in the playoffs, beat the Saints 44-10 in the first round and then scored maybe the biggest upset in Vikings history when they beat Joe Montana and a great 49ers team 36-24 in San Francisco.

The victory advanced the Vikings to the NFL Championship Game, in which they lost 17-10 to Washington and missed a chance to go to the Super Bowl.

Jerry Burns, the Vikings coach at the time, said this about the victory over the 49ers: "The one thing I've always remembered is that you've seen running backs dominate games, and you've seen quarterbacks dominate games, but I'd never seen a wide receiver dominate a game like Anthony Carter did that particular game. Anything you threw out there [Wade Wilson was the quarterback] he went and got it. He took it away from people. [That] was the most sensational one particular game that I've ever seen any receiver play."

Carter caught 10 passes for a then-NFL playoff record 227 receiving yards (since broken by Buffalo's Eric Moulds with 240 yards vs. Miami in 1998).

I recall Montana having a bad day and coach Bill Walsh replacing Montana with Steve Young to try to generate some offense.

I haven't missed many Vikings games over the years, but in the 47-year history of the team, I believe that was without a doubt their biggest upset.

Today it will be another big upset -- for the 49ers -- if the Vikings lose to maybe the worst team in the NFL.

Might switch Cuddyer

Delmon Young could wind up playing right field for the Twins, with Michael Cuddyer going to left, in one of the experiments Twins manager Ron Gardenhire might try in spring training.

"We'll probably end up starting him in left field, and then kind of move him, if it doesn't look like he can handle that," Gardenhire said. "Then I'll put him over in right and put Cuddy in left. But right now, [he'll] probably [be in] left field.

"Yeah, I like him. He's a nice-looking hitter," Gardenhire said about Young. "He's a strong kid, he reminds me of [White Sox outfielder] Jermaine Dye. A lot like Jermaine Dye, he can hit the ball, he can drive it to all fields. ... I think he'll be fine for us."

As for Brendan Harris, the infielder the Twins got in the Tampa Bay trade, Gardenhire said: "This kid, he's not going to have the range that [traded shortstop Jason] Bartlett's going to have and he's not going to be able to steal the bases, but this kid's a gamer. He can hit, this kid can drive the ball a little bit. He's got power and he's got a good swing.

"Bartlett was hurt quite a bit, too. I was nervous giving up Bartlett. I think we kind of got him to the point where he was playing pretty good for us and you felt confident with him, but we'll see what this Harris kid can do. I talked to him and he thought that he was going to get the chance to play shortstop every day for Tampa Bay, so we'll see. I'll see how he does."

The Twins had outfielder Jason Pridie, the third player in the trade, in camp two years ago as a Rule 5 draft choice. Gardenhire looks for Pridie to be a role player.

"He was a nice player. He's OK, he's a speed guy, a slap hitter, you know he can help us," Gardenhire said. "I haven't seen him in a couple years, but at the time he was just an OK player."

Gardenhire is confident lefthander Francisco Liriano will be ready to pitch this spring after rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery.

"Liriano I saw at the end of instructional league, and he looked fine," Gardenhire said. "He was stronger, the ball was really coming out of his hand. Now we'll just see if he can come in spring training and see how his arm does. He's supposed to be healthy, he's supposed to be feeling great."

After spending time at the winter meetings in Nashville, Gardenhire says he doesn't have any idea what will happen with ace Johan Santana.

"I have no idea. I listened to it all down there and I don't know what they're going to do. I honestly don't," he said.

As for making a trade with the Red Sox for Santana, Gardenhire said the Twins should hold out for young center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and pitcher Jon Lester.

Better offensive line

Pro Bowl guard Steve Hutchinson says it took time for the Vikings offensive line to jell to the point they are now.

"I've been saying that all offseason and all training camp," he said. "It just takes more than five guys putting a helmet on and going out there to get the job done. So the more we play, the more experience we get together, the more scenarios we see. It all makes us better."

About the 49ers game today, Hutchinson said: "Their record isn't what they want it to be and watching their defense on tape, you'd think they'd have a better record than they do. They play very hard, they play tough for the full 60 minutes and we're going to have our hands full."

Asked if there is any danger of a Vikings letdown against the 49ers, center Matt Birk said: " I've never played a game in the NFL where, going out there, I'm thinking to myself, 'Wow, this is going to be easy today.' It's never easy. You never take it for granted. Everybody has talent, anything can happen, any given day. ... Every Sunday, you're always in for the fight of your life, and whatever the records say, it doesn't matter. It's always going to be a battle, it's always going to be a challenge and that's how you have to approach it."

Jottings

Vikings wide receiver Sidney Rice, who played in college at South Carolina, had a lot of good things to say about Skip Holtz, who was offensive coordinator there under his dad, head coach Lou. Incidentally, Skip now is head coach at East Carolina, which will play in the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 23. Former Gophers defensive coordinator Greg Hudson is the defensive coordinator for East Carolina.

Ex-Gophers pitcher Jim Brower, who finished the season with the Yankees, has signed with the Reds. ... Kerry Ligtenberg, another former Gophers pitcher, has secured a spring training invitation from the Florida Marlins. ... Gophers wide receiver Eric Decker, who has a great baseball future according to scouts, is now officially on the Gophers baseball roster and will play baseball as well as football next season.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Podcast twice a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com

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