The Vikings are playing Season 60 in 2020. There has been no more dramatic and entertaining game played in those six decades than what took place on Jan. 17, 1999, inside the Metrodome:
Falcons 30, Vikings 27, in overtime, for the NFC championship.
The memories of what took place on that Sunday live, including the walk from the backside of the Dome to the nearby Star Tribune building after the completion of postgame interviews.
There was an above-ground parking lot between the two buildings then and what amazed were the number of Vikings flags – the ones attached to windows of cars – that had been discarded in the wet mush of the parking lot.
That remains one of the top few “fans are amazing’’ moments of a lengthy journalism career.
For a couple of dozen car-, or truck-, or van-loads of Vikings fans, there was no pause to reflect on the fantastic competition witnessed on this afternoon; rather, there was anger at the sight of their flags of earlier support, and flings of that Purple cloth into the muck.
All these years later, that game still will come up in conversation. And if you nod your head and say, ‘’That was a hellacious game; terrific drama,’’ Minnesota sports fans will respond as if that’s intended as 100% agitation.
Nope. That NFC title game, between the 15-1 Vikings and the 14-2 Falcons, is one of the best NFL games I’ve ever seen.
That is what Minnesotans forget in looking back at that game:
It wasn’t just Denny Green taking a knee, or Gary Anderson missing a field goal, or Robert Smith running out-of-bounds.
Those Falcons were 14-2. Veteran quarterback Chris Chandler was equipped to play a wonderfully composed game inside the Dome’s din, and Chuck Smith to make a zealous rush to the quarterback, and Morten Andersen to make his 38-yard field goal.
The Falcons were good and played great. The Vikings were great and played well. And it is the Amazing Unknown of how that will play out that brings true entertainment.
My theory is simple: “We always know what’s going to happen in sports, unless it doesn’t.’’
Which brings us to Sunday night’s outstanding football game from Seattle, where the Seahawks defeated the Vikings 27-26 by scoring a touchdown on fourth down with 15 seconds remaining.
Going in, we basically knew here in Minnesota that the Vikings’ porous defense would be torn up by quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seahawks would get to a 5-0 in comfortable fashion – 10 points perhaps, with the Vikings’ Kirk Cousins producing his traditional late touchdown in garbage time.
And then Russell was completely handcuffed in the first half, hindered both by the Vikings’ ball control and a pass rush that sacked him four times.
Vikes 13, Seahawks 0 at the half … truly, an example of the Amazing Unknown.
Then, the Vikings had a horrid two minutes in the third quarter, the Seahawks exploded to a 21-13 lead, and there was no one from Warroad to Winona now expecting anything other than a Seattle blowout.
At which point, Cousins led touchdown drives of 77 and 97 yards, and the Vikings were leading 26-21 and were on another long drive to inside the 10 at the 2-minute warning.
The left side of the offensive line, center Garrett Bradbury, guard Dakota Dozier and tackle Riley Reiff, with assistance from Kyle Rudolph and fullback C.J. Ham, had destroyed the Seahawks for most of four quarters.
Made no difference if the great Dalvin Cook was on the field in the first half, or the rugged backup, Alexander Mattison, or even little-used Mike Boone, had the ball … the Seahawks were on their heels, or backs.
Eventually, the Vikings had a half-yard to make on fourth down at the Seahawks 6. And this created a perfect moment to be a Vikings fan:
A) If the Vikings kick a field goal to make it 29-21, and Wilson takes the Seahawks down the field for a touchdown and a successful two-point conversion, and then the home team wins in overtime, all can scream, “The Vikes were running through ‘em all night; why didn’t Zim (a k a, coach Mike Zimmer) go for it?’’
B-If the Vikings go for it and somehow get stopped (which happened), many can scream, “Why didn’t Zim kick the field goal; put ‘em in a situation where they needed a long touchdown drive and a two-point conversion just to get to overtime?’’
A better second guess might have been, “Why’d they run right, not left?’’—but there was a bigger picture than the play at the Seattle 6, this being:
The Vikings played a better two-way game than could have been imagined for a team that started off this season with two efforts of complete ineptitude.
In three weeks, they had gone from record-breaking futility in time of possession to the 180-degree turnaround in Seattle.
The Vikings surprised with two-way domination in the first half. They surprised even more with the comeback drives after the two-minute meltdown in the third quarter.
And then Russell won the game with a fourth-down bullet to his new gem, D.K. Metcalf.
You were able to see an outstanding effort from the underdog Vikings, and also the best quarterback on the planet perform his magic.
Entertainment. Drama. The Amazing Unknown. That’s why we watch. Or should be.
Addendum: I was offering wisdom on Twitter the other day and someone responded, “Have you ever been wrong about anything?’’
My answer: “Not in hindsight.’’
Meaning, we’re all in the same dinghy, fans and media