Editor's note: Over the past nine weeks, the Star Tribune has republished memorable Sid Hartman columns from the archives. This is Sid's column from the Jan. 10, 1977, edition of the Tribune following the Vikings' loss to Oakland in the Super Bowl.
PASADENA, CALIF. – The Minnesota Vikings' 32-14 loss to Oakland Sunday appeared to hurt a lot more than the previous Super Bowl defeats.
The Vikings were confident they could win. Instead they were never in the game after Brent McClanahan fumbled on Oakland's 2-yard line.
"Who knows, we might never be back," said quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who felt the Vikings would score at least three touchdowns against the Raiders' castoff defense.
The Vikings believed before the game that Oakland running backs Clarence Davis and Mark van Eeghen wouldn't hurt them as Lawrence McCutcheon and John Cappelletti of the Rams had. But Davis rushed 16 times for 137 yards and van Eeghen carried the ball 18 times for 73 yards as they ran almost at will against what had been a strong Vikings defense.
The question is how will this loss affect the Vikings' future. Will it hurt their confidence? Some players felt it would.
Alan Page, Vikings defensive tackle, was upset after the game with the attitude of the media.
"The attitude of the press is ridiculous," said Page. "What we've done all year to get here doesn't mean one thing. Now that we lost this game, we're a bunch of losers, a bunch of dogs. We're four-time losers so that means we're a lousy football team."
Page had a lot of respect for the Raiders. But he wasn't ready to call them the best team the Vikings had faced in the Super Bowl. "I can't rate anybody over the Miami team," he said. "They were good."
Johnson made the call
There were a lot of jubilant Raiders after the game. Nobody had more reason to celebrate than Bloomington's Monte Johnson, who sold programs at Metropolitan Stadium as a kid. He watched the Vikings and worshiped Tarkenton, Jim Marshall, Carl Eller and others. He made the defensive call that helped cause the McClanahan fumble, a turnover that set the pattern for the entire game.
"Even though the Vikings had the ball on the 2 after the punt block, we felt that by being tough we might make a big defensive play," said the Oakland linebacker. "I had a decision to make regarding the type of defense we'd call on the goal line. Fortunately, I made the decision to slant the line to the left. McClanahan ran the ball into our defensive strength. Dave Rowe made the hit just as McClanahan got the handoff. Willie Hall recovered the fumble and we went on to score three points. It had to be a letdown when they didn't get anything out of it after being so close to our goal."
Johnson, a second-round draft choice from Nebraska, said he couldn't believe how well the Raiders coaching staff had the Vikings scouted.
"We knew the Vikings as well as anybody we played this year," he said. "… We studied them day and night on film. It seems they do the same thing game after game. They win so there isn't any reason to change. Our goal was to stop them on first down with no yardage and force them to do some things offensively they didn't want to do, which we did."
What they said
Ray Guy, who had the first punt in his college and pro career blocked: "One of our guys was supposed to block out and he missed the assignment on Fred McNeill of the Vikings. McNeill came in untouched. It made me mad. I must have walked 5 miles on the sidelines after the block. But I finally got it off my mind and didn't have any trouble with the rest of the punts."
Chuck Foreman, who was in tears in the locker room after the game and found it hard to talk: "What can you say when you get beat the way we did?"
Ahmad Rashad, Vikings wide receiver: "Sure, the loss hurt, but it will make us more determined to come back again next year."
Ken Stabler, Oakland quarterback: "Now the media will expect us to win a second straight Super Bowl. If we don't win, we'll be torn apart."
Carl Eller, Vikings defensive end: "Our pressure on Stabler was poor all day."
Ed White, Vikings offensive guard: "The McClanahan fumble came on a run over Mick [Tingelhoff] and it was straight-ahead blocking. It looked like we had a good hole for Brent."
McClanahan: "We were lucky to get out of here alive. No comment on the fumble."
Jeff Siemon, Vikings linebacker who led the team in tackles: "People say we'll never win a Super Bowl. Who knows, we may never get here again. Had we scored after that blocked kick we might have gotten the momentum we needed. … It's hard to say what this loss will do to this team. After each Super Bowl loss, it gets a little tougher to live with it. It won't be easy living with this one."