The Vikings’ worst-ever playoff loss came on Dec. 28, 1975, at Met Stadium. They were coming off back-to-back Super Bowl seasons and were playing Dallas in a first-round game.
The Vikings led 14-10 with 1:50 remaining when Dallas took possession at its 15-yard-line. The Cowboys were facing a fierce Purple defense that had stymied them through the afternoon.
Dallas converted on fourth-and-17 on an outstanding catch by receiver Drew Pearson. That put the Cowboys at midfield with 37 seconds left. A short pass was incomplete, and then Roger Staubach made a heave down the right sideline toward Pearson.
Nate Wright was running with Pearson, and then there was contact, and Wright was on the Met’s shoddy turf, and Pearson was traipsing into the end zone. Yeah, that was a tough one, the 17-14 loss to Dallas, but it was not for the NFC title.
When that’s the criteria for horrendous, gut-tearing defeat – that winning meant a berth in the Super Bowl – I put what happened to the Packers on Sunday in Seattle ahead of any playoff loss suffered by the Vikings in the 49 years of the Super Bowl era.
We’re not talking about historic deprivation here. We’re not taking into account the fact the Packers are 4-1 in Super Bowls and the Vikings are 0-4. We’re not taking into account the Packers are four years removed from playing in a Super Bowl and the Vikings are 38 years removed.
The issue is an individual conference championship game, and what went into losing that game, and I contend the turn that Sunday’s game took against the Packers and their fans was uglier than what happened to the Vikings on Jan. 17, 1999 in the Metrodome.
Or, for that matter, what happened on Jan. 24, 2010 in the Superdome.
Gary Anderson missed a field goal and the Vikings lost to the Falcons 30-27 in overtime in the NFC title game after the 1998 season. We all can look back and say it was bad mojo for Anderson to not have missed a field-goal attempt all season.
Yet, even with the Vikings as large favorites, there was never a moment on that dramatic afternoon that the home crowd could say, “This game is definitely ours.’’ There was never a moment when the Falcons appeared to be futile, to be hopelessly outclassed.
The Vikings lost to a team with a 14-2 record that came into the din of the Dome and played an outstanding game.
Eleven years later, the Vikings went into the Superdome and outplayed the Saints most of the way, although never to a degree when the Purple Faithful watching back in Minnesota could say, “We got this one in the bag.’’
When victory seemed to be the closest, the Saints’ Tracy Porter intercepted a Brett Favre pass late in regulation to get his team to overtime, and then the Saints won 31-28 on a field goal.
Again: The Vikings put forth a fantastic effort and Favre was tremendous, but it was almost four hours of drama when an upset victory was a hope for Minnesota fans … not a certainty.
And that’s what should make this defeat harder to choke down for the Packers and their Cheddar Nation.
It was a certainty that the Packers were going to win, when Morgan Burnett took the ricochet off Seattle receiver Jermaine Kearse for an interception. There were five minutes left and the Packers led 19-7.
The interception was the fourth thrown by Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who at that point had put together one of the all-time, big-game choke jobs by a well-regarded quarterback in modern NFL history.
Wilson knew the game was over at that interception. Kearse sat on the bench knowing it was over. And the 12th Man fakers in the Seattle crowd knew it was over … abandoning the Seahawks by the thousands and solemnly taking it to the parking lots and the nearest saloons.
It was so over right then that nobody thought much of the fact that Burnett had slid to the ground shortly after the interception, rather than taking the 10, 20, maybe 30 yards that were available if he kept running away from Seattle linemen and toward the left sideline.
As it turned out, Burnett taking the advice of veteran Julius Peppers to go to the ground was just the first of a handful of calamitous blunders that first gave Seattle a 22-19 lead, and then gave the Seahawks a 28-22 victory in overtime.
My personal favorite was the Packers allowing Wilson’s desperation, hot-air ballon pass to be caught for a two-point conversion, meaning Mason Crosby’s field goal in the final seconds of regulation was good only for a tie, not a Packers’ victory.
The bottom line here was the Packers played a team that played as poorly as could be imagined for 55 minutes, and the Packers still managed to lose all semblance of composure and get beat.
The Packers flat-out beat themselves. And that’s what makes this a more wretched defeat than anything suffered by the Vikings in a Super Bowl qualifier.