In December 1976, the headline in the Minneapolis Tribune screamed “Vikings Super Bowl-bound again.” Yes, again.
Diehard Vikings fans remember the era well: The old Met Stadium, the great defensive line known as the Purple People Eaters, and the team that went to three Super Bowls in four years — the first team to compete in four Super Bowl games. They were on a roll.
But that year, the team had something to prove. Still stinging from a loss to the Cowboys in the division playoffs the year before, the group of veterans was, as one writer put it, getting long in the tooth. Quarterback Fran Tarkenton was 36, Carl Eller was 34 and Jim Marshall was 39. But they weren’t about to limp away.
This was going to be their year. Coach Bud Grant signed Ahmad Rashad and drafted Sammy White. And they still had Chuck Foreman. The Purple People Eaters were under the guidance of first-year defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan; Jerry Burns, who would go on to be the team’s fourth head coach, was the offensive coordinator. The Vikings were pumped, the fans were pumped. All they needed was a little magic.
The team beat Washington handily in the division championships — this really could be their year.
Next up: the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams. It was a balmy 12 degrees during the game, prompting Rams’ defensive end Jack Youngblood to quip “Eskimos don’t go out in weather like this.”
The Vikings prevailed — the Rams stressed that the cold did not give the Vikings an advantage — and fans rejoiced. It was the last home game of the season, so security let the fans have (and bend) the goalposts. They were heading to the Super Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.
And there, the magic stopped. The Raiders beat the Vikings 32-14 for Oakland’s first Super Bowl win. And it was the last time the Vikings appeared in a Super Bowl.