(every Friday during the NFL season, OOB will run a nostalgic feature about the Lions’ upcoming opponents)
After 28 years, I’m still not sure who I’m more angry at: the Cleveland Browns, or Ahmad Rashad.
It’s been well-documented here, my hatred for the Minnesota Vikings. It began in the early-1970s, when the Vikes would routinely finish first, the Lions second, and a lot of that was because the Vikings beat them like a drum. From 1968-’74, the Vikings beat the Lions 13 straight times, and some of those games were of the fluky variety. The other frustrating thing was that the Lions actually fielded some pretty respectable teams in those days, yet the Vikings beat them anyway.
The Vikes are off on another “beat Detroit” streak (15 of 17, plus 10 straight at home), but this one isn’t as impressive, or as maddening, because: a) EVERYONE has been on a “beat Detroit” streak lately, and b) the Vikings haven’t really won anything lately, either.
I could recount more than a few weird Lions-Vikings games. There was the one in ’76 at the Silverdome. I listened to that one on the radio. The Lions were down 10-3 in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. But they were driving for the tying touchdown. The drive seemed like it lasted forever when you’re looking at a radio dial. Then, the Lions finally scored their touchdown, well past the two-minute warning. I could hear the Silverdome crowd go wild.
All the Lions needed to do was kick the extra point, and there’d be overtime.
Well, the Vikings blocked the XP. They were good at blocking Lions kicks. They did it to the Lions in Minnesota a few years earlier, thwarting a potential game-winning FG by Errol Mann.
That’s the way the Vikings would beat the Lions, and other teams: blocked kicks; fumble recoveries; interceptions; and just dumb luck.
In 1980, it got so ridiculous that the Vikings beat the Lions — without even playing them.
It was the “Another One Bites The Dust” year for the Lions — when they got off to a 4-0 start and some of them, full of themselves and giddy, recorded the bastardized version of Queen’s song.
But 4-0 quickly turned to 7-7. Then the Lions won their final two games to finish 9-7. The Central Division was lousy that year; their only real challengers were the Vikings, naturally.
The Vikings were 8-6 after 14 games. But their last two games were against Cleveland, at home, and at Houston — two tough contests. The Lions knew that if they finished 9-7, there’d be a good chance that the Vikings would finish 8-8, giving the Lions the divisional title. The Lions did their part. But the Vikings had some more of that luck of the devil that they were so famous for.
The Browns led them, 23-21. The Vikings had the ball, but they were too far away for a field goal try. There was only one hope: the Hail Mary.
Perhaps you’ve seen the play. And perhaps you weren’t aware of its significance to the Lions until now. QB Tommy Kramer heaved the ball, some 50 yards from the goal line. Several Vikings and Browns ran beneath it. The ball came down and was tipped back into the air — but not very high. Yet just high enough to fall into the lucky arms of WR Ahmad Rashad, who was kind of backpedaling into the end zone when he caught the prayer.
Vikings win, 28-23, to go to 9-6. That win effectively killed the Lions’ chances, because even though the Vikes lost to the Oilers, their 9-7 record was better than the Lions’ 9-7, due to a tiebreaker: the Vikes were 8-4 in the NFC, the Lions were 9-5. The Vikings got into the playoffs by percentage points because of a stupid tiebreaker. Typical.
The Browns didn’t care; they were having an 11-5 season, and the loss to Minnesota didn’t affect them in the least.
The only consolation is that the Vikings got their asses kicked by the Eagles in the playoffs, 31-16.
Oh, and did I mention that Billy Sims suffered his career-ending knee injury in Minnesota?
I’ll always hate the Vikings. Always.