Greg Eno

Archive for the ‘Minnesota Vikings’ Category

AC Was Elusive, And In More Ways Than One

In Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, USFL on December 5, 2008 at 3:26 pm

(every Friday during the NFL season, OOB will run a nostalgic feature about the Lions’ upcoming opponents)

My disdain for the Minnesota Vikings is well-documented, if you’ve read this blog for any length of time. Don’t believe me? Just click on the little search box in the upper lefthand corner and type in “Minnesota Vikings” and see what turns up here.

But few things rankled me more about the Vikings than seeing #81 running around the football field, catching passes and returning punts and wreaking general havoc.

Anthony Carter, AC from Michigan. The original #1 in Maize and Blue — the one who started the tradition of the top-flight receiver wearing jersey no. 1 in Ann Arbor.

How Carter became a Viking is typical, when it comes to the Vikes sticking it to the Lions.

Carter, as you know, terrorized the Big Ten from 1979-82 as a Wolverine. Then he made some more football hay locally when he starred for the USFL’s Michigan Panthers in 1983-84. The USFL had a territorial draft, and so it was a simple matter for AC to stay in the state and play for the Panthers.

Then the USFL went out of business.

The Miami Dolphins had Carter’s rights, having drafted him in 1983. Why the Lions didn’t do so is a mystery unto itself (Carter wasn’t drafted until the 12th round, which means the Lions passed on him at least 11 times; even if they figured he was going to the USFL, why not take a flyer on him anyway?). But by 1985, when the USFL was bankrupt, the Dolphins already had Mark Duper and Mark Clayton for Dan Marino, so they traded Carter to … the Minnesota Vikings!

Sickening, I know.

I don’t have the heart to post a photo of Carter in a Vikings uniform

So not only did the Lions miss out on Carter in his prime, they got to see him twice a season, playing for the intra-divisional Vikings, and usually he was helping to beat Detroit. He was so close, yet so far.

Then, almost as a cruel joke, Carter ended up with the Lions, finally — but as a 34-year-old with his best days behind him. He hurt his collarbone early in the 1994 season and hardly played. He came back in 1995 and was an afterthought on a team that had Herman Moore, Brett Perriman, and Johnnie Morton. So that was AC as a Lion. Eight receptions for 97 yards and three touchdowns. Almost like salt in a wound.

I don’t know what the Vikings gave up to finagle Carter from the Dolphins, but whatever it was, it was worth it. Carter caught 478 passes for well over 7,000 yards in nine years in Minnesota, for 52 touchdowns. He made three Pro Bowls (1987, ’88, and ’89). He eventually combined with Cris Carter to form quite a receiver tandem for the Vikes from 1991 thru 1993.

Yet another reason for me to hate the Vikings — though in this case, the Lions screwed themselves, really. I know, no shock there.

Vikes’ Prayer In 1980 Yet Another Example Of Their Luck Against Lions

In Lions, Minnesota Vikings on October 10, 2008 at 2:57 pm

(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.

Despite Hordes Of Losses In Minnesota, Three Wins Stand Out

In Lions NFL, Minnesota Vikings on November 30, 2007 at 3:21 pm

The Lions haven’t celebrated too many glorious Sundays in the great white north of Minnesota in the past several decades, but there’ve been a few that stick out in my memory.

Perhaps the most memorable was a win in 1974.

The Lions, when they invaded the old Metropolitan Stadium in October ’74, hadn’t beaten the Vikings since December, 1967. That was 13 straight losses to the Purple People Eaters, who will always be my most hated team in all of sports. And, the Lions were 1-4, which didn’t inspire much confidence. Part of the early-season strife could be blamed on the death of head coach Don McCafferty, who died of a heart attack during training camp, while cutting his lawn at home. McCafferty’s death thrust assistant Rick Forzano into the top spot. Forzano was a former college coach who’d never been a head coach at the pro level. The latter distinction had never stopped the Lions, of course, from hiring such folks, but McCafferty’s untimely passing was an excusable reason for giving the untested Forzano the job.

The Lions managed to nudge ahead of the powerful 5-0 Vikings, 20-16, as the fourth quarter clock wound down. But Minnesota was on the move. It looked like they would, once again, steal a win from the Lions, who during the 0-13 streak had the Vikes on the ropes many times, only to have something weird happen to them.

The Vikings drove down the field, led by Fran Tarkenton. But being down by four, they needed a touchdown. They neared the Lions’ 20-yard line.

Tarkenton scrambled and fired a pass in the end zone. There was a collision, and the ball popped gently into the air. But instead of being snagged by a Vikings receiver (which wouldn’t have been surprising), the football was cradled by DB Lem Barney. His secondary mates crowded around Barney and forced him to down the ball in the end zone, ensuring the Lions victory. The 0-13 streak was over — and with the 1-4 Lions beating the 5-0 Vikings!

Barney, who hadn’t beaten the Vikings since his rookie season in 1967, before sealing 1974’s win in Minnesota with a pick in the end zone

It was so ironic, because many much better Lions teams had outplayed the Vikings in the past yet lost.

Another win in Minnesota that sticks out was in 1991, the Sunday before Thanksgiving. This was the 12-4, Mike Utley year. It wasn’t so much the win that stands out as the move that Barry Sanders made on safety Joey Browner that I swore could have blown out both of Browner’s knees.

Sanders got into the open field and juked Browner — who was a pretty darn good player — so badly that he, at once, both froze Browner and rattled the safety’s knees. He reduced a Pro Bowl player to nothing more than an orange construction zone cone. Of course, Sanders also made other great players look silly in similar scenarios, such as Rod Woodson (who really did blow out a knee against Sanders) and John Lynch.

Then there was a 1993 win, in which the Lions trailed 27-23 in the waning seconds on Sunday Night Football. But Rodney Peete drove the Lions downfield and, facing a fourth-and-goal, threw in the direction of Brett Perriman in the end zone. There was contact, but it would have been unsurprising if the officials called nothing, especially on such a crucial play. Yet here comes the flag, to the howls of the Metrodome crowd. Now with first-and-goal at the one, the Lions scored, and stole a 30-27 win just before the final gun.

“Couldn’t have happened to a better team,” I said of the Vikings.

Sunday, the Lions return to another of their houses of horrors. They need a win in the worst way, and they could have picked a better place to seek it than the awful Metrodome. Strange things happen to them in the state of Minnesota. Always have.