The Vikings played 10 playoff games at Met Stadium. They were held between Dec. 18 and Jan. 4 on the calendar, so Sunday’s game at TCF Bank Stadium will be the latest winter date on which an NFL playoff game has been played outdoors in Minnesota.
The Vikings won seven of those 10 playoff games at the Met. There are role models and elements in those seven victories that can be used to inspire the troops for Sunday’s daunting challenge vs. the Seattle Seahawks.
1. The Los Angeles Rams with the Fearsome Foursome were sent to the Bloomington prairie to meet the Vikings and the Purple People Eaters in the NFL Western Conference title game on Dec. 27, 1969.
Deep thinker that he was, Rams coach George Allen flew his team to Minnesota on Dec. 23 and conducted practices under great secrecy at Macalester. Allen wanted to get his Southern California athletes “used to the cold.”
Meantime, practical thinker that he was, Bud Grant had the Vikings fly to Tulsa for a couple of days to practice in warmer conditions (although it was also wintry there).
Allen was looking good at halftime in that Saturday game. The Rams and quarterback Roman Gabriel moved the ball efficiently and led 17-7.
“The feeling at halftime was that we had to pull ourselves together and hold ’em,” said Alan Page, the young defensive tackle. “Our offense had moved the ball early … the defense had to hold the Rams to let the offense do its work.”
Page and the defense held the Rams to 64 yards and a field goal in the second half. Joe Kapp’s offense started to move and the Vikings won 23-20.
And it was Page who guaranteed the victory with a late interception of Gabriel.
Page was 24, in his third season and had been the 15th overall selection in the 1967 draft. He had strength, extreme quickness and a fantastic will while playing inside as a tackle.
Sharrif Floyd is 24, in his third season and was the 23rd selection in the 2013 draft. He has size, quickness and Vikings fans have seen examples of a strong will.
2. The Vikings followed the hard-nosed victory over the Rams with a 27-7 thumping of Cleveland in the 1969 NFL title game. This sent the Vikings to their first Super Bowl.
The offensive line tore up the Browns on that Sunday. One day earlier, quarterback Kapp had presented each offensive lineman with a bottle of champagne.
After the rout of the Browns, tackle Grady Alderman said: “I asked Kapp on Saturday if the champagne was for services rendered or expected. He said, ‘You figure it out.’ ”
Tackle Matt Kalil and his linemates would earn similar generosity if they can provide proper service to Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson vs. the Seahawks.
3. The Vikings again had George Allen — this time as coach of the Washington Redskins — for a division game on Dec. 22, 1973. Again, George’s club had a halftime lead (7-3). This time, Carl Eller broke a blackboard at halftime to inspire his mates, and the Vikings won 27-20.
Chuck Foreman was the rookie starter at running back and headed for the Pro Bowl, but backup Oscar Reed provided the explosions: a 50-yard pass reception and a 48-yard rush.
Stay ready, Jerick McKinnon.
4. The St. Louis Cardinals arrived for a division game on Dec. 21, 1974, with their version of Air Coryell (in honor of pass-happy coach Don Coryell). It was 7-7 at halftime.
Safety Jeff Wright intercepted the Cardinals’ Jim Hart on the third play of the second half, and cornerback Nate Wright later scooped up a fumble (forced by Page and Eller) and went 20 yards for a touchdown, and the Vikings cruised to a 30-14 victory.
Big plays from the secondary — those can be the ticket Sunday … right, Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes?
5. A week later, on Dec. 29, 1974, the Vikings went back to the Super Bowl for a third time with a 14-10 victory in a smashup with the L.A. Rams. The Rams had a 98-yard march that was denied when Wally Hilgenberg intercepted a deflected pass in the end zone.
Hilgenberg was a 32-year-old linebacker who played for the Iowa Hawkeyes. It just happens that Chad Greenway is a 32-year-old linebacker (until his birthday Tuesday) who played for the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Get ready for deflections, Greenway.
6. George Allen’s record in playoff games at the Met dropped to 0-3 when the Redskins were thrashed 35-20 in a division game on Dec. 18, 1976. The running game was fierce, and quarterback Fran Tarkenton was 12-for-21 for 170 yards and three touchdowns — one to Stu Voigt (a k a Kyle Rudolph) and two to Sammy White (a k a Stefon Diggs).
There you are, young Mr. Bridgewater: 12-for-21, 170 and three scores will do just fine.
7. The Vikings earned their fourth Super Bowl berth in eight seasons by building a 17-0 lead and beating the L.A. Rams 24-13 on Dec. 26, 1976. This was the third playoff loss in Bloomington for the Rams, and there was bitterness over the 12-degree high and the choppy Met Stadium field.
“Eskimos don’t go out in weather like this,” Rams defensive end Jack Youngblood said. “We’ve got a multimillion-dollar business here and we’ve got to play in conditions like this … I don’t think mentally you can shut out the elements around you.”
There it is, Purple. The final example for use on Sunday: Let the bitter cold be your ally and perhaps the Seahawks’ mental block.