The 1998 season was the Minnesota Vikings' 38th in the National Football League. The Vikings became the third team in NFL history to win 15 games during the regular season, which earned them the National Football Conference (NFC) Central division championship and the first overall seed in the NFC playoffs. The team entered the playoffs as the favorite to win Super Bowl XXXIII, but their season ended when they were upset by the Atlanta Falcons in the 1998 NFC Championship Game.
The 1998 Vikings team is known for its offense, which featured veteran quarterback Randall Cunningham, running back Robert Smith, and Hall of Fame wide receivers Cris Carter and a rookie Randy Moss. The team scored an NFL record 556 points during the season, and Moss set an NFL record by catching 17 touchdown passes, the most ever by a rookie. On special teams, Gary Anderson became the first placekicker in NFL history to convert every field goal and extra point he attempted. The Vikings defense ranked sixth in the league in points allowed and was led by Hall of Fame defensive tackle John Randle.
During the NFC Championship Game, Gary Anderson missed a field goal for the first time that season. Had the field goal been converted, it would have given the Vikings a nearly insurmountable 10-point lead late in the game. Instead, the Falcons tied the game on their ensuing drive and won by a field goal in sudden death overtime.
The 1998 Vikings were the first NFL team to compile a regular season record of 15–1 and not win the Super Bowl, and numerous publications have recognized the team as one of the greatest to never win the league championship. Their loss in the NFC Championship Game is also considered by their fans to be one of the most devastating losses in NFL history.
|1998 Minnesota Vikings season|
|Head coach||Dennis Green|
|General manager||Jeff Diamond|
|Home field||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome|
|Division place||1st NFC Central|
|Playoff finish||Won NFC Divisional Playoff (Cardinals) 41–21|
Lost NFC Championship Game (Falcons) 27–30 (OT)
|1998 Minnesota Vikings Draft|
|Draft order||Player name||Position||College||Notes|
|1||21||21||Randy Moss||Wide receiver||Marshall|
|3||19||80||Ramos McDonald||Cornerback||New Mexico|
|4||18||110||Kivuusama Mays||Linebacker||North Carolina|
|6||20||173||Matt Birk||Offensive tackle||Harvard|
|36||225||Tony Darden||Cornerback||Texas Tech||Compensatory pick|
|1||August 9||at New England Patriots||W 28–0||1–0||Foxboro Stadium||54,111|
|2||August 15||Kansas City Chiefs||W 34–0||2–0||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome||60,955|
|3||August 22||at Carolina Panthers||W 25–22 (OT)||3–0||Ericsson Stadium||64,569|
|4||August 28||San Diego Chargers||W 42–28||4–0||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome||62,127|
Prior to the start of the 1998 season, the Vikings were sold to Red McCombs. The NFL had not been happy with the Vikings' ownership arrangement of 10 owners with none owning more than 30 per cent. The ownership decided to sell the club. At first it appeared that Tom Clancy would become the new owner. However, his attempt to buy the team fell through. So in July 1998, the team was sold to McCombs, who was from San Antonio, Texas.
1998 was a year to remember for the Minnesota Vikings. With a spectacular offense led by quarterback Randall Cunningham, who had the best year of his NFL career, running back Robert Smith, veteran wide receiver Cris Carter, and explosive rookie Randy Moss, the Vikings set a then-NFL record by scoring a total of 556 points, never scoring fewer than 24 in a game. The Vikings finished the season 15–1, their only loss by three points to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week nine. 12 of their 15 wins came by a margin of at least 10 points.
|1||September 6||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||W 31–7||1–0||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome||62,538|
|2||September 13||at St. Louis Rams||W 38–31||2–0||Trans World Dome||56,234|
|3||September 20||Detroit Lions||W 29–6||3–0||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome||63,107|
|4||September 27||at Chicago Bears||W 31–28||4–0||Soldier Field||57,783|
|5||October 5||at Green Bay Packers||W 37–24||5–0||Lambeau Field||59,849|
|7||October 18||Washington Redskins||W 41–7||6–0||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome||64,004|
|8||October 25||at Detroit Lions||W 34–13||7–0||Pontiac Silverdome||77,885|
|9||November 1||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||L 24–27||7–1||Raymond James Stadium||64,979|
|10||November 8||New Orleans Saints||W 31–24||8–1||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome||63,779|
|11||November 15||Cincinnati Bengals||W 24–3||9–1||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome||64,232|
|12||November 22||Green Bay Packers||W 28–14||10–1||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome||64,471|
|13||November 26||at Dallas Cowboys||W 46–36||11–1||Texas Stadium||64,366|
|14||December 6||Chicago Bears||W 48–22||12–1||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome||64,247|
|15||December 13||at Baltimore Ravens||W 38–28||13–1||Ravens Stadium at Camden Yards||69,074|
|16||December 20||Jacksonville Jaguars||W 50–10||14–1||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome||64,363|
|17||December 26||at Tennessee Oilers||W 26–16||15–1||Vanderbilt Stadium||41,121|
Brad Johnson was intercepted twice and eventually knocked out of the game; his replacement Randall Cunningham threw a late touchdown to Cris Carter. Robert Smith rushed for 179 yards and two touchdowns as the Rams stayed within a touchdown despite four Tony Banks interceptions. A last-minute goalline stand by the Vikings sealed a 38–31 win.
Cunningham made his first start of the season and threw for 220 yards and a five-yard score to Randy Moss. The game was mostly a Gary Anderson field goal exhibition as he booted five field goals plus two PATs, the second on Leroy Hoard's 11-yard rushing touchdown in the Vikes' 29–6 win.
Cunningham and Erik Kramer of the Bears squared off in a spirited duel. Cunningham's four touchdowns (to Smith, Andrew Glover, Carter, and Moss) were answered by Kramer's four scores (to Bobby Engram, Chris Penn, and Ryan Wetnight). The Vikings got the better of the duel as they intercepted Kramer once and won 31–28.
Randall Cunningham and Randy Moss unleashed a passing clinic on Monday Night at Lambeau Field as Cunningham tossed for 422 yards and Moss caught five passes for 190 yards and two scores. Cris Carter added eight for 119 yards as the Vikings also intercepted Brett Favre three times; backup Doug Pederson took over and threw two scores in the fourth quarter, but they did nothing to assuage a 37–24 Vikings win.
The Vikings' quest for perfection ended as Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott erupted to 243 rushing yards and two scores. Two Cunningham touchdown throws put the Vikings up 24–17 until Alstott's score in the fourth proved the key to Tampa's 27–24 upset of the Vikings.
Cunningham threw only two passes against New Orleans and Brad Johnson came off the bench to throw for 316 yards and a touchdown despite two picks; Sammy Knight ran back one pick for a 91-yard touchdown in the fourth. Robert Smith rushed for 137 yards; he and Leroy Hoard accounted for three touchdowns in Minnesota's 31–24 win.
Cunningham and Moss led a wild 46–36 win at Dallas as Moss caught just three passes – for 163 yards and three touchdowns. Cris Carter snagged seven passes for 135 yards and a score and Leroy Hoard ran in two more touchdowns. Troy Aikman threw for a career-high 455 yards and a score to Patrick Jeffers while Emmitt Smith ran in three scores; despite 513 total yards the Cowboys could not keep pace with the Vikings. The game was also a penalty-laden affair with a combined 23 fouls eating 230 yards.
Four years after Warren Moon's overtime win over the Bears on Sunday Night Football, the Vikings clinched the NFC Central title by once again hosting the Bears on Sunday Night Football. Randall Cunningham unleashed four more touchdowns, three of them to Randy Moss. Leroy Hoard added a rushing score while the Bears fumbled at the Vikings six-yard line and Dwayne Rudd scored with the turnover. The Vikings won 48–22.
Vikings offensive coordinator Brian Billick faced his employer for the following season as the two teams combined for just 143 rushing yards. This unusual game featured three kick-off returns for TDs and four fumbles (all in their own half by the Ravens) in just the first 21 minutes of play. Overall, the Ravens coughed up five fumbles but the Vikings offense was largely held in check, with Gary Anderson booting six field goals and Randall Cunningham held to two touchdowns, one to Randy Moss. Future 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh threw a 42-yard touchdown to his former Colts teammate Floyd Turner while Corey Haris, David Palmer on kick returns and Priest Holmes on a two-yard run gave the Ravens the rest of their points scored in a 38–28 Vikings win.
Despite 108 penalty yards the Vikings reached 50 points in a 50–10 slaughter of the AFC Central champion Jaguars. Randall Cunningham threw for 210 yards and three touchdowns, then gave way to Brad Johnson who added a touchdown of his own. Cunningham was one of three Vikings players who rushed for 161 yards and a Chuck Evans touchdown while Jimmy Hitchcock intercepted Jonathan Quinn and scored from 30 yards out.
The Vikings became the final club to play against Tennessee before they officially became the Titans. The Oilers clawed to a 13–8 halftime lead despite an intentional grounding penalty against Steve McNair that led to a safety. Two Randall Cunningham touchdowns in the third quarter put the game away to a 26–16 Vikings win, the 15th of the season.
|(1) Minnesota Vikings||15||1||0||.938||556||296||W8|
|(5) Green Bay Packers||11||5||0||.688||408||319||W3|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||8||8||0||.500||314||295||W1|
In the playoffs, the Vikings rolled past the Arizona Cardinals 41–21, and came into the Metrodome heavily favored for their NFC title showdown with the Atlanta Falcons, who had finished 14–2. Leading 20–7 just before halftime, some would argue that the Vikings got greedy with their playcalling, as they called a deep pass play on third down, which led to a Cunningham fumble deep in Minnesota territory. Shortly thereafter, the Falcons scored to cut the lead to 20–14. The Vikings were again leading 27–20 with two minutes left in the fourth quarter and had a chance to potentially put the game out of reach with a field goal. However, kicker Gary Anderson, who had gone 35 for 35 in the regular season, missed a 39-yard attempt. With multiple defensive injuries for the Vikings the Falcons subsequently marched downfield and scored the game-tying touchdown several plays later.
A controversial decision in the game saw Vikings head coach Dennis Green instruct quarterback Randall Cunningham to take a knee on a third down deep in Viking territory with about 30 seconds remaining rather than risk having to punt back to Atlanta following their game-tying touchdown. Minnesota won the coin toss in overtime but failed to score in two overtime possessions. Atlanta eventually won 30–27 in overtime on Morten Andersen's field goal, which was a 38-yarder on the same uprights.
|Div||January 10||Arizona Cardinals||W 41–21||1–0||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome||63,760|
|NFC||January 17||Atlanta Falcons||L 27–30 (OT)||1–1||Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome||64,060|
The 16–1 Vikings, boasting the league's first post-merger, 500-point offense since the 1983 Washington Redskins, were heavy favorites at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and raced to a 20–7 lead in the second quarter off two Randall Cunningham touchdowns (one rushing and a throw to Randy Moss), but at the end of the first half Chris Chandler found Terance Mathis for a 14-yard score. After a Morten Andersen field goal made it 20–17 in the third, the Vikings surged to a 27–17 lead on another Cunningham TD throw (this one to Matthew Hatchette). In the frantic final ten minutes of regulation the Falcons were forced to turn the ball over on downs, but the Vikings fumbled it right back and Andersen kicked another field goal for a 27–20 score. In the final four minutes Gary Anderson, who hadn't missed a field goal all season, shanked a 38-yarder, and suddenly the surging Falcons had a chance, and nailed it when Chandler led the Falcons downfield and connected with Mathis in the end zone with 49 seconds remaining. The Vikings got the ball in overtime but Eugene Robinson stopped a deep pass to Moss and the Falcons got it back on a punt. Chandler led the Falcons downfield again and Andersen nailed a 38-yard field goal at 11:52 of the extra quarter; the 30–27 final sent the Falcons to Super Bowl XXXIII.
|Passing yards||Randall Cunningham||3,704|
|Passing touchdowns||Randall Cunningham||34|
|Rushing yards||Robert Smith||1,187|
|Rushing touchdowns||Leroy Hoard||9|
|Receiving yards||Randy Moss||1,313|
|Receiving touchdowns||Randy Moss||17|
|Points||Gary Anderson||164 *|
|Kickoff return yards||David Palmer||1,176|
|Punt return yards||David Palmer||289|
|Forced fumbles||Ed McDaniel
|Category||Total yards||Yards per game||NFL rank|
(out of 30)
|1998 Minnesota Vikings staff|
Special teams coaches
Strength and conditioning
|1998 Minnesota Vikings final roster|
|Division championships (20)|
|Conference championships (4)|
|League championships (1)|
|Current league affiliations|
Championship seasons in bold