1998 NFC Championship Game

The 1998 NFC Championship Game was a National Football League (NFL) game played on January 17, 1999, to determine the National Football Conference (NFC) champion for the 1998 NFL season. The visiting Atlanta Falcons defeated the heavily favored[3] Minnesota Vikings 30–27 in sudden death overtime to win their first conference championship and advance to the franchise's first Super Bowl appearance.[4] As a result of their loss, the Vikings were eliminated from the playoffs and became the first team in the history of the NFL to compile a regular season record of 15–1 and not win the Super Bowl.[4][5]

The game is considered one of the most memorable conference championship games in NFL history.[6][7][8] In 1998, the Vikings were the favorite to win the Super Bowl,[9] as they had set the NFL record for most points scored by a team in a single season. They had gone undefeated in their home stadium, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, during the regular season, and their placekicker, Gary Anderson, had become the first kicker in NFL history to convert every field goal and extra point attempt in a season.[9][10] At a critical moment late in the game, Anderson missed a field goal for the first time that year, which, if converted, would have given the Vikings a nearly insurmountable 10-point lead.[5][9][10] Instead, the Falcons scored a touchdown to tie the game on their ensuing drive and subsequently won by a field goal in overtime.[11] Due to its impact on the game's outcome, Anderson's missed field goal has since become the focal point of the loss.[9]

The Falcons lost 34–19 to the Denver Broncos two weeks later in Super Bowl XXXIII.[4] Neither the Falcons nor the Vikings would return to the Super Bowl until the 2016 NFL season, when the Falcons lost in overtime to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI. Although the game long stood as the proudest moment in the history of the Falcons franchise,[12][13] the 1998 NFC Championship Game has been remembered for the effect it had on the Vikings players and their fan base,[10][14] as it is seen by some sportswriters as one of the most devastating losses in NFL history.[15]

1998 NFC Championship Game
051207-MPLS-006Metrodome-crop
Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, the site of the game
Atlanta Falcons (2)
(14–2)
Minnesota Vikings (1)
(15–1)
30 27
Head coach:
Dan Reeves
Head coach:
Dennis Green
1234OT Total
ATL 773103 30
MIN 713070 27
DateJanuary 17, 1999
StadiumHubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, Minnesota
FavoriteVikings by 11[1]
RefereeWalt Coleman
Attendance64,060[1][2]
Current/Future Hall of Famers
Falcons: Morten Andersen
Vikings: Cris Carter, Randall McDaniel, Randy Moss, John Randle
TV in the United States
NetworkFox
AnnouncersJohn Madden and Pat Summerall

Background

Minnesota Vikings

Before the 1998 NFL season, the Minnesota Vikings had accumulated a history of disappointing losses. Although they were the first franchise to appear in four Super Bowls, they lost each time and became the first franchise to lose four Super Bowls as a result. They had not appeared in a Super Bowl since their fourth loss following the 1976 season,[14][16] although they had come close in other seasons. In a 1975 Divisional round playoff game, the Vikings lost to the Dallas Cowboys as a result of a 50-yard touchdown pass from Roger Staubach to Drew Pearson in the game's final seconds, a play in which Vikings observers claim that Pearson should have been penalized for pass interference.[14][17] The Vikings also lost to the Washington Redskins in the 1987 NFC Championship Game, during which Vikings running back Darrin Nelson dropped a game-tying touchdown pass in the game's final seconds. Due to this history of misfortune, the NFL Network ranked the Vikings as the second most "snake-bitten" franchise of all-time, behind only the Cleveland Browns.[14]

Under head coach Dennis Green, the Vikings were perennial playoff contenders throughout the 1990s, but they experienced little success once they reached the postseason.[10] In the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft, the Vikings selected wide receiver Randy Moss, who, despite his talent, was passed by several teams, even those in need of a wide receiver, due to concerns surrounding Moss's misbehavior and multiple arrests during high school and college.[10][18] Moss used this as motivation to make teams who passed on him regret their decision. That year, Moss set the NFL record for most touchdown receptions by a rookie with 17, and combined with future Hall of Fame wide receiver Cris Carter and quarterback Randall Cunningham, he formed the centerpiece of the Vikings' offensive attack, which also set an NFL record by scoring 556 points during the season.[10] The Vikings' defense was led by future Hall of Fame defensive tackle John Randle and was ranked sixth overall in points allowed during the season.[19]

The Vikings finished the regular season with a record of 15–1 and held the first overall seed in the NFC playoffs; the two previous NFL teams to finish the regular season with 15 wins, the 1984 San Francisco 49ers and the 1985 Chicago Bears, had each won the Super Bowl.[20] Former player turned analyst Brian Baldinger claimed that "They were easily the best team in football,"[9] and Pro Football Hall of Fame writer Ray Didinger observed, "It seems like this is the unstoppable team."[14] Dan Barreiro, a sports radio host in the Minneapolis area, noted that for the Vikings franchise, "'98 was the season. All the stars had aligned."[9]

Vikings placekicker Gary Anderson had joined the team that off-season after playing for three different teams in his 16-year NFL career. In 1998, he became the first placekicker in NFL history to convert every field goal and extra point attempted.[9][10] He finished the regular season 35/35 on field goals, with a long of 53 yards, and 59/59 on extra points.[19] As a result, he was voted to the 1998 NFC Pro Bowl team, the fourth Pro Bowl invitation of his career, and was voted to the AP All-Pro team for the first time.[21] He also converted every field goal and extra point attempt in a Divisional playoff round victory against the Arizona Cardinals the week before the NFC Championship.[10][22] Entering the NFC Championship Game, his last miss was on December 15, 1997, against the Denver Broncos, when he was a member of the San Francisco 49ers.[11]

Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons had "frustrating" team history, as described by Atlanta sports journalist Terence Moore. Moore singled out the 1980 divisional playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys, in which the Falcons gave up a 14-point lead en route to a defeat, as well as a 6-turnover performance during their 1991 divisional playoff defeat against the Washington Redskins as notable examples of frustration.[14] Prior to the 1998 season, the Falcons had never advanced to the NFC Championship game, let alone to a Super Bowl.[4]

The 1998 season was not expected to be any different,[13][23] as the Falcons had failed to reach the playoffs the previous two seasons and only made the playoffs twice in the previous fifteen seasons. However, head coach Dan Reeves, who was hired before the previous season, had overhauled the roster in an attempt to reverse the team's fortunes. Thirty-eight of the fifty-three players on the 1998 Falcons team had been brought in by Reeves over the previous year,[6] including journeyman quarterback Chris Chandler, who had a career-best season in 1998.[24] Running back Jamal Anderson also posted a career-high 1846 rushing yards, which led the NFC that year,[25] and the defense finished fourth overall in points allowed. As a result, the Falcons won the NFC West with a record of 14–2 and clinched 2nd overall seed in the NFC playoffs, behind only the Vikings.[26] The team was nicknamed the "Dirty Birds"[3] after a touchdown dance created by tight end O.J. Santiago but popularized by Anderson.[27]

After experiencing chest pains following the team's 27–17 victory over the New Orleans Saints on December 13, Reeves underwent quadruple bypass surgery. The team was coached by defensive coordinator Rich Brooks for the final two regular season games.[27] Reeves was able to return to the team in time for their first playoff game, in which the Falcons beat their division rival, the San Francisco 49ers, to clinch a spot in the Conference Championship.[26] Despite an impressive season, they were not expected to match up well against the Vikings, who had beaten teams by an average of 23.22 points at home that year[28] and were installed as 11-point favorites for the Championship Game.[1]

Game summary

The Falcons won the coin toss before the game and elected to receive the opening kickoff. They drove down the field and scored first on a five-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Anderson. On the next drive, the Vikings answered the score with a 31-yard touchdown pass from Cunningham to Randy Moss, tying the game at 7. Neither team scored in the remainder of the first quarter. In the second quarter, Gary Anderson kicked a field goal after the Vikings recovered a Falcons fumble to make the score 10–7. After forcing the Falcons to punt on the next drive, the Vikings scored another touchdown on a one-yard run by Cunningham, increasing the lead to 17–7 with five minutes remaining in the first half. The Falcons then lost another fumble, which gave possession back to the Vikings. On the ensuing drive, Moss dropped what would have been a touchdown pass in the end zone, leaving Gary Anderson to kick another field goal to make the score 20–7. After forcing another Falcons punt, the Vikings attempted to increase their lead before halftime, but Falcons lineman Chuck Smith forced a fumble on Cunningham, and the Falcons recovered the ball deep in Vikings territory. The Falcons subsequently scored on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Chris Chandler to Terance Mathis to cut their deficit to 20–14 by the end of the half.[11]

The Falcons forced the Vikings to punt on the opening drive of the second half, and two long plays by wide receiver Tim Dwight set up a 27-yard field goal by Morten Andersen, which cut the Falcons' deficit to three points. The Vikings answered the score on their ensuing possession, driving 82 yards in 15 plays to score a touchdown on a five-yard Matthew Hatchette reception, which made the score 27–17 with just over 13 minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Falcons responded with a 70-yard completion to Tony Martin, which set up a 24-yard field goal by Morten Andersen to make the score 27–20. On the ensuing Vikings drive, Cunningham fumbled a snap and the Falcons recovered the ball on the Vikings' 30-yard line; the Falcons failed to score after an incomplete pass turned the ball over on downs with six minutes left in the game. The Vikings then drove down to the Falcons' 22-yard line, where an incomplete pass on 3rd down set up a field goal attempt by Gary Anderson.[11]

Anderson's kick

Here's the snap, the kick is up, and it is ... no good! No good! Gary Anderson has missed a field goal for the first time in two years!
— Falcons radio broadcast of the NFC Championship Game[29]

The incompletion on 3rd down stopped the clock with 2:11 left in the game.[11] The field goal attempt was placed from 39 yards away, which is not considered a particularly difficult field goal distance by NFL standards.[9][30] Because the game was played indoors at the Metrodome, there were no adverse weather conditions that might have affected the kick.[9] The ball was snapped on 4th down with punter Mitch Berger holding from the left hash mark. The Vikings faced a heavy rush from cornerback Michael Booker on the left side of the line of scrimmage and cornerbacks Ronnie Bradford and Ray Buchanan on the right, who ran into Anderson and knocked him to the ground after the kick. The ball sailed about a foot wide left of the upright with 2:07 left on the game clock. Afterward, Anderson momentarily stood on the field with arms akimbo before heading to the sideline, as Falcons players celebrated around him.[11]

A converted field goal would have given the Vikings a 10-point lead, which would have almost certainly clinched victory, according to Pro Football Prospectus[5] and the NFL Network documentary The Missing Rings.[10] Citing a mathematical algorithm by sports analytics company numberFire, The New York Post reported that the Vikings had a 95.23% chance of winning the game had Anderson converted the field goal.[31]

End of regulation and overtime

Morten Andersen at NFL Fan Rally
Atlanta Falcons placekicker Morten Andersen, pictured here in 2010, kicked the game winning field goal in overtime to lift the Falcons over the Vikings in the 1998 NFC Championship game.

The Falcons took possession of the football at their own 29-yard line and quickly drove down the field. With just over a minute left in the game, Vikings safety Robert Griffith dropped an interception off of a deflected pass, which would have also almost certainly clinched victory. Instead, Chandler threw a touchdown pass to Mathis on the next play, tying the game 27–27 with 49 seconds remaining in regulation. On the ensuing possession, the Vikings managed only seven yards and then kneeled on third down, which ran out the clock and forced overtime; the first team to score in the overtime period would win.[11]

The Vikings won the coin toss and started overtime with possession of the football on their own 29-yard line, but managed to convert only one first down and punted to Atlanta. The Falcons drove to their own 41-yard line before being stopped on 3rd down, and they punted the ball back to Vikings. On the ensuing drive, Cunningham attempted a deep pass to Moss that was narrowly broken up by Eugene Robinson; had the pass been completed, it most likely would have resulted in a touchdown and victory for the Vikings. Instead, the Vikings had to punt on 4th down again. The Falcons then drove to the Vikings' 21-yard line, where Morten Andersen converted a 38-yard field goal for the win.[11]

Aftermath

Player reactions

After the game, Gary Anderson was described as "inconsolable".[32] Although the Vikings still led by seven points at the time, his missed kick had a demoralizing effect on the team. ESPN contributor Ben Goessling noted "how swiftly it pulled the bottom out from under a team that had an air of inevitability about it to that point."[28] Writing for the website Sporting News, Jeff Diamond, the Vikings' general manager at the time, observed that, "Our team played the rest of the game as if it was in shock that our automatic kicker had missed at the most critical time."[32] Randle concurred, describing his reaction to the kick as, "I was standing there like someone just punched me in my stomach, and was like, 'Oh my God, oh my God.'"[10]

Carter openly wept in the locker room after the game[33] and was affected so badly by the loss that he considered retirement. "Walking off that field and losing like that," Carter reflected, "I didn't even know if I wanted to play football anymore. Because I just, I felt like that I would never win after that." He went on to call the game, "The most devastating loss that I've ever been a part of." Both Carter and fellow Hall of Fame member Randle believed that the 1998 Vikings team was their best chance at winning a Super Bowl;[10] neither player ever reached the Super Bowl in their careers.[34]

Randle described the feeling after the game as, "It's like driving down a street and getting every green light for the next ten miles, and you're just cruising along, and it's just smooth. And all of a sudden, you're getting there, you're almost there, and all of a sudden, the fucking light turns red, and you get sideswiped." Randle further laments the loss due to the background of many of his teammates, whom he described as "misfits, guys who just got their second chance." Beyond Moss's legal troubles, Carter had been released by the Philadelphia Eagles early in his career for substance abuse issues, and Cunningham was released by the Eagles and remained unsigned to a team two seasons prior. Randle himself was considered undersized coming out of college and was not heavily pursued by NFL teams.[10]

Cunningham drew on his religious faith to persevere through the loss, believing that God had a reason for everything to happen.[33] Years later, he reflected, "It just wasn’t our destiny to be in the Super Bowl. That’s my conclusion. Because if it was, we would have gone."[35] Immediately after the game, he expressed this belief in an attempt to console Carter. The following season, Cunningham was benched for poor play after six games and was released by the Vikings at the end of the year. He also would never play in a Super Bowl.[33]

Overjoyed with victory, Falcons players also wept after the game, and the team ripped open pillows and threw feathers in celebration on their charter flight back to Atlanta. Buchanan stated that the win "feels like a miracle" due to the negative perception of the Falcons in years past. "This team was dirt. People stepped on us and wiped their feet on the doormat. Now we feel like a bunch of Michael Jordans." Chandler joked that due to his game-winning field goal, Morten Andersen "gets to keep his green card", referring to Andersen's Danish nationality,[6] while running back Jamal Anderson felt vindicated for the media's continuous focus on the Vikings in the days leading up to the game, which made him feel disrespected.[36]

Falcons defensive end Chuck Smith questioned the Vikings' toughness because of the ease with which they had won during the season. "It's one thing to beat up on people," said Smith, "but how do you react when someone's finally hitting you back? We've been slugging it out all year."[6] Years later, Smith went on to criticize Gary Anderson in particular for his missed field goal and its contribution to the Vikings' loss.[9]

Media analysis

By virtue of their loss, the 1998 Vikings became the first team in NFL history to compile a regular season record of 15–1 and not win the Super Bowl.[4][5] Fox Sports,[37] NBC Sports,[38] and the NFL Network[30] each named the team as one of the five greatest not to win the Super Bowl, and coach Dennis Green believed that the 1998 Vikings would have been considered the best NFL team of their generation had they gone on to win.[10] In a 2018 retrospective, Sports Illustrated called the 1998 Vikings "The Greatest Team Never to Make It."[35]

The loss had a dramatic effect on Minnesota sports culture, as the 1998 Vikings were considered the team most likely to deliver a Super Bowl championship to a franchise that had already suffered multiple heartbreaking defeats.[9][14] Numerous publications have noted the influence that the loss had on the Vikings fan base;[39][14] Brian Billick, the offensive coordinator of the 1998 Vikings, went as far as stating, "I’m not sure the city had ever rebounded from it."[35] Damon Amendolara of CBS Radio and Don Banks of Sports Illustrated both consider the Vikings' loss in the championship game as one of the most devastating in NFL history,[15] with Banks noting that, "The Vikings have never completely recovered from that game."[30] This perception has also extended into popular culture, as the game became a plot point in the episode "Little Minnesota" of the television show How I Met Your Mother when Robin, a Canadian character, asks the significance of a banner in a Minnesota-themed bar that reads, "I'm drinking till I forget the 1999 [sic] NFC Championship."[40]

Gary Anderson's missed kick has been singled out as the main contributing factor to the Vikings' loss, as the Falcons were able to capitalize on the late shift in momentum produced by an unexpected opportunity to tie and eventually win the game. Considering this impact on the game's outcome and the historic performances of Anderson and the 1998 Vikings team, the miss has since been noted as a memorable moment in the greater history of the NFL.[9] Paul Allen, the play-by-play radio announcer for the Vikings, and Dan Barreiro both consider the miss as one of the most devastating moments in the history of Minnesota sports.[9][14] According to Chad Hartman, another sports radio host based in Minneapolis, "[Anderson] will always be known as the guy who was a part of screwing up the Vikings' trip to the Super Bowl, even though he had this magnificent season."[9] ESPN voted the miss as the most memorable play in Vikings history, and ESPN contributor Ben Goessling believes that the miss influenced misfortunes that the franchise faced in subsequent years, including three further NFC Championship losses in 2000, 2009, and 2017.[28] Cunningham concurred by claiming, "With that kick, it just seemed like the whole franchise went wide left."[41]

Anderson has claimed that in greater context, the miss was not particularly notable, and it is only remembered because the Falcons won the game.[42] Buchanan, who was attempting to block Anderson's kick, believes that Anderson would not have been able to convert the field goal regardless, since if the kick was on target, it would have "hit [Buchanan] in the face mask."[6] Vikings backup quarterback Brad Johnson echoed this sentiment, stating, "I think someone got loose on the left end and they almost blocked it, and [Anderson] tried to slice it in there."[35] Some sportswriters,[30][43] as well as Randle,[44] have defended Anderson, claiming that the Vikings' defense deserves the real blame for the loss for allowing Atlanta to tie the game after Anderson's miss. Barreiro also criticized the performance of Cunningham, whom he felt did not handle the pressure of the game well and called "dreadful down the stretch".[45]

Vikings coach Dennis Green has been criticized for his decision to kneel on 3rd down and play for overtime instead of attempting to score before the end of regulation. Radio host Bob Sansevere, author of The Best Minnesota Sports Arguments, called it "one of the all-time boneheaded decisions a coach has ever made in any sport".[46] Of Green's play call, Peter King of Sports Illustrated wrote, "Minnesota coach Dennis Green did a great job this year, but if he doesn't wake up and stare at the ceiling in the next few days and say out loud: 'Boy, I screwed that one up,' then he's not being honest with himself."[47] Nonetheless, local Minneapolis newspaper Star Tribune has contended that taking a knee was the correct decision due to the performance of the Vikings' offense,[48] whose struggles that day were also noted by Carter.[10]

The Falcons missed the playoffs the following season and would not return until 2002. Following the 2001 season, Chandler was released by the team, and Jamal Anderson retired due to a knee injury. The franchise would not reach the Super Bowl again until the 2016 season, when they lost in overtime to the New England Patriots, 34–28. As a result, their win in the 1998 NFC Championship game stood as the franchise's proudest moment for years,[12] particularly due to the atmosphere of pessimism that surrounded the franchise at the time.[23] An NFL Films retrospective on the Falcons' season noted that "years of pain were wiped away in one unforgettable afternoon,"[29] and Dan Weiner stated that, "The 1998 season was a dream come true ... For once, the Atlanta Falcons made believers of us all."[13] In 2010, ESPN named the 1998 team as the greatest Falcons team of all-time,[49] and the network also voted Morton Andersen's game-winning field goal as the top play in Falcons' history.[50]

Falcons coach Dan Reeves was praised for his ability to lead the team after having heart surgery only weeks prior, as Reeves' comeback proved to be an emotional rallying point for the team. Austin Murphy of Sports Illustrated noted that Reeves' return "[galvanized] the already close-knit Falcons",[51] and Falcons linebacker Jessie Tuggle agreed: "Dan has really inspired us all. ... He walked in the meeting room four days after having had surgery, and you could have heard a pin drop. We wanted to hear every last word he had to say." Reeves described his time during the season as "more rewarding than any other teams I've been involved in", and to Falcons special teams coach Joe DeCamillis, Reeves' leadership that season was "his best coaching job ever".[52] CBS called Reeves' return "an amazing comeback that people will be talking about for years".[53]

Chandler was considered to be the offensive hero of the game, despite the attention that the Vikings' offense received during the season. Media analysis before the game noted that the Vikings' defense needed to focus on shutting down Falcons running back Jamal Anderson; feeling overlooked, Chandler used the coverage as extra motivation.[6] In a retrospective for the website SportsGrid, Geoff Magliocchetti detailed the end of the game, in which he claims that Chandler "embarked on the drive of his life, an 8-play, 71-yard masterpiece, finding Mathis from 16 yards out for the tying score."[12]

Playoffs

In the hours before the AFC Championship Game, the Denver Broncos were watching the NFC Championship Game on the JumboTron at Mile High Stadium to see who they would play in Super Bowl XXXIII should they defeat the New York Jets. Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan expressed surprise at Anderson's missed kick, and running back Terrell Davis said that the Falcons' subsequent victory put the Broncos in the mindset that they had "won the Super Bowl already," as their greatest potential challenge had been eliminated. This distraction nearly cost the Broncos the game against the Jets, as the Broncos played a very poor game.[54] Tim Connolly, the Vikings team president at the time, recalled that Shanahan insinuated relief that the Broncos were not playing the Vikings when the two met at a reception after the conference championship games.[35]

Two weeks later in the Super Bowl, the Falcons played the Broncos, the game pitting coach Dan Reeves against his former team and their star quarterback, John Elway. Reeves had led the Broncos to three Super Bowl appearances, all losses, and he was fired as the Broncos' head coach after the 1992 NFL season. Afterward, Elway was quoted as saying, "These last three years have been hell. I know I would not have been back here if Dan Reeves had been here. It wasn't worth it to me. I didn't enjoy it. It wasn't any fun, and I got tired of working with him." Reeves responded by saying, "Just tell him it wasn't exactly heaven for me either. One of these days I hope he grows up. Maybe he'll mature sometime." During his tenure, Reeves had also fired Shanahan, who was an assistant coach on the team, and these points of contention became a media storyline entering the game. Nonetheless, all parties involved stated that any lingering animosity had long since passed.[55]

The Falcons lost Super Bowl XXXIII by a score of 34–19, which earned the Broncos their second consecutive Super Bowl victory.[4] The game was anticipated as a match up between the Vikings and the Broncos, and the Falcons' presence in the game was noted as an anticlimax.[12] The night before the game, safety Eugene Robinson was arrested for soliciting a prostitute. Although Robinson played in the game, the distraction contributed to a poor performance by the Falcons team,[3] who managed only six points in six drives deep into Denver territory and surrendered a season-high point total.[27]

Statistics

Statistical comparison

Per Pro Football Reference:[1]

Statistic Atlanta Falcons Minnesota Vikings
First downs 25 26
Total net yards 427 356
Rushing attempts 29 34
Net yards rushing 110 102
Rushing touchdowns 0 1
Yards per rush 3.79 3
Passing – completions/attempts 27/43 29/48
Net yards passing 317 254
Passing touchdowns 3 2
Yards per attempt 7.91 5.54
Sacked-yards 3–23 3–12
Turnovers 2 2
Interceptions thrown 0 0
Fumbles-lost 2–2 3–2
Punts-Average yardage 4–44.8 4–50.8
Punt returns-yards 2–35 0–0
Kickoff returns-yards 4–110 3–75
Penalties-total yards 4–65 6–30
Time of possession 35:04 36:48

Individual leaders

Per Pro Football Reference:[1]

Falcons Passing
C/ATT1 Yds TD INT Rating
Chris Chandler 27/43 340 3 0 110.6
Falcons Rushing
Car2 Yds TD LG3 Yds/Car
Jamal Anderson 23 67 0 11 2.91
Tim Dwight 3 28 0 21 9.33
Chris Chandler 2 15 0 9 7.5
Ken Oxendine 1 0 0 0 0
Falcons Receiving
Rec4 Yds TD LG3 Target5
Tony Martin 5 129 0 70 8
Terance Mathis 6 73 2 19 14
O. J. Santiago 3 54 0 26 4
Jamal Anderson 6 33 1 11 8
Ronnie Harris 1 29 0 29 2
Brian Kozlowski 3 11 0 5 3
Harold Green 2 9 0 8 2
Ed Smith 1 2 0 2 1
Tim Dwight 0 0 0 0 1
Vikings Passing
C/ATT1 Yds TD INT Rating
Randall Cunningham 29/48 266 2 0 89.4
Vikings Rushing
Car2 Yds TD LG3 Yds/Car
Robert Smith 21 71 0 16 3.38
Randall Cunningham 6 13 1 7 2.17
Leroy Hoard 6 10 0 5 1.67
Charles Evans 1 8 0 8 8
Vikings Receiving
Rec4 Yds TD LG3 Target5
Randy Moss 6 75 1 31 13
Cris Carter 6 67 0 17 9
Matthew Hatchette 4 34 1 14 7
Andrew Glover 4 34 0 11 5
Leroy Hoard 3 23 0 11 4
Greg DeLong 2 17 0 11 4
David Palmer 2 9 0 9 2
Charles Evans 1 9 0 9 1
Robert Smith 1 –1 0 –1 3

1Completions/attempts 2Carries 3Long gain 4Receptions 5Times targeted

Personnel

Starting lineups

As credited during the Fox Sports broadcast of the 1998 NFC Championship game:[11]

Atlanta Position Position Minnesota
Offense
Tony Martin WR Randy Moss
Bob Whitfield LT Todd Steussie
Calvin Collins LG Randall McDaniel
Robbie Tobeck C Jeff Christy
Gene Williams RG David Dixon
Ephraim Salaam RT Korey Stringer
O.J. Santiago TE Andrew Glover
Terance Mathis WR Cris Carter
Chris Chandler QB Randall Cunningham
Jamal Anderson RB Robert Smith
Brian Kozlowski FB Charles Evans
Defense
Lester Archambeau LE Derrick Alexander
Travis Hall LT Jerry Ball
Shane Dronett RT Tony Williams
Chuck Smith RE John Randle
Cornelius Bennett WLB Dwayne Rudd
Jessie Tuggle MLB Ed McDaniel
Henri Crockett SLB Dixon Edwards
Ray Buchanan LCB Corey Fuller
Michael Booker RCB Jimmy Hitchcock
William White SS Robert Griffith
Eugene Robinson FS Orlando Thomas
Special Teams
Morten Andersen K Gary Anderson
Dan Stryzinski P Mitch Berger

Hall of Fame[56]

Officials

As credited during the Fox Sports broadcast of the 1998 NFC Championship game:[11]

See also

References

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  2. ^ "Atlanta Falcons At Minnesota Vikings – National Football League Game Summary" (PDF). National Football League. January 17, 1999. Retrieved July 31, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Newberry, Paul (January 28, 2017). "As Falcons return to big game, remembering the Dirty Birds". Associated Press. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f McGinn, Bob. The Ultimate Super Bowl Book. Minneapolis: MVP Books. pp. 254–259. ISBN 978-0-7603-4371-5.
  5. ^ a b c d Schatz, Aaron. Pro Football Prospectus 2006. New York: Workman Publishing Company. pp. 73–75. ISBN 978-0-7611-4217-1.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Silver, Michael (January 25, 1999). "A Real Head Turner". Sports Illustrated. New York: Time Warner.
  7. ^ Chase, Chris (January 18, 2017). "The 13 greatest conference championship games in NFL history". Fox Sports. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  8. ^ "Analysis: Top 15 Championship Sunday games in the Super Bowl era". Fox Sports. January 15, 2014. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Top 10 Foul-Ups". NFL Top 10. August 1, 2007. NFL Network.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "The 1998 Minnesota Vikings". America's Game: The Missing Rings. October 16, 2008. NFL Network.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Fox Sports broadcast of the 1998 NFC Championship Game (Television). Fox Sports. January 17, 1999.
  12. ^ a b c d Magliocchetti, Geoff (January 21, 2017). "Remembering the 1998 Atlanta Falcons". Sports Grid. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  13. ^ a b c Weiner, Dan (May 13, 2009). "The 1998 Atlanta Falcons: The Team That Proved Anything Is Possible". Bleacher Report. Retrieved June 28, 2016.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Top 10 Snakebitten Franchises". NFL Top 10. July 31, 2009. NFL Network.
  15. ^ a b "Top 10 Devastating Losses". NFL Top 10. September 18, 2015. NFL Network.
  16. ^ McGinn, Bob. The Ultimate Super Bowl Book. Minneapolis: MVP Books. pp. 82–88. ISBN 978-0-7603-4371-5.
  17. ^ "Dec. 29, 1975: Drew Pearson's 'Hail Mary' catch". Star Tribune. June 20, 2016. Retrieved March 16, 2017.
  18. ^ "Rand University". 30 for 30. November 11, 2014. NFL Network.
  19. ^ a b "1998 Minnesota Vikings Statistics & Players". Sports Reference. Retrieved June 26, 2016.
  20. ^ McGinn, Bob. The Ultimate Super Bowl Book. Minneapolis: MVP Books. pp. 144–150. ISBN 978-0-7603-4371-5.
  21. ^ "Gary Anderson NFL Football Statistics". Sports Reference. Retrieved June 28, 2016.
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  25. ^ "1998 NFL Leaders and Leaderboards". Sports Reference. Retrieved June 28, 2016.
  26. ^ a b "1998 Atlanta Falcons Statistics & Players". Sports Reference. Retrieved June 28, 2016.
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External links

1998 Minnesota Vikings season

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.

2007–08 NFL playoffs

The National Football League playoffs for the 2007 season began on January 5, 2008. The postseason tournament concluded with the New York Giants defeating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, 17–14, on February 3, at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

2009–10 NFL playoffs

The National Football League playoffs for the 2009 season began on January 9, 2010. The postseason tournament concluded with the New Orleans Saints defeating the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, 31–17, on February 7, at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

The Wild Card round featured three games that were re-matches of Week 17 games.

2015 Minnesota Vikings season

The 2015 season was the Minnesota Vikings' 55th season in the National Football League and their second under head coach Mike Zimmer. It marked the last season in which the Vikings played their home games at the University of Minnesota's on-campus TCF Bank Stadium, before moving into U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened in July 2016, located on the site of the now-demolished Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. The Vikings improved on their 7–9 record from 2014 and clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2012. They also won their first NFC North title since 2009 with a Week 17 victory at the Packers. As a result, they hosted the Seattle Seahawks in the wild card round of the 2015–16 NFL playoffs, but lost 10–9 after kicker Blair Walsh missed a potential game-winning 27-yard field goal in the final seconds.

Gary Anderson (placekicker)

Gary Allan Anderson (born July 16, 1959) is a former National Football League (NFL) placekicker. The first South African to appear in an NFL regular season game, Anderson played in the league for 23 seasons with six teams. He spent the majority of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and is also known for his tenure with the Minnesota Vikings. A four-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro, Anderson set several records during his two decades in the league and was named to the NFL's All-Decade teams of the 1980s and 1990s, as well as the Steelers All-Time Team.

As a member of the Vikings in 1998, Anderson became the first NFL kicker to successfully convert every field goal and point after touchdown during regular season play. During the postseason, however, he missed a critical field goal in the 1998 NFC Championship Game, which is regarded as a primary factor in the Vikings' subsequent defeat. Anderson continued to play in the NFL for six more seasons before retiring. At the time of his retirement, Anderson held the NFL records for points scored and field goals made. He ranks second in games played (353), third in points scored (2,434), and third in field goals made (538) and is also the Steelers' all-time leading scorer at 1,343.

History of the Atlanta Falcons

The American football team Atlanta Falcons was founded in Atlanta, Georgia in 1965 and joined the NFL Eastern Conference, with Norb Hecker as coach. They soon moved to the NFC West division, and in 2002 to NFC South. Their home grounds have been the Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium (up to 1991), the Georgia Dome (1992–2016), and the Mercedes-Benz Stadium (since 2017).

The Falcons had little success at first and did not qualify for the postseason playoffs until 1978. They were NFC West champions in 1980 and 1998, and in 1998 played in the Super Bowl XXXIII match, losing to Denver Broncos.

The decade of the 2000s featured star player Michael Vick and was marred by criminal charges against him. Falcons finished top of NFC South in 2004, 2010 and 2012, and reached Super Bowl LI in 2016, when they lost a massive lead against New England Patriots.

Minneapolis Miracle

The Minneapolis Miracle (also known as the Minnesota Miracle) was the National Football Conference (NFC) divisional playoff game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints on January 14, 2018, and specifically its final play. The game was played as part of the National Football League (NFL)'s 2017–18 playoffs.

The Saints came back from a 17–0 first-half deficit and established a 24–23 lead with 25 seconds remaining in the contest. On the last play of the game, Vikings quarterback Case Keenum threw a 27-yard pass to wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who evaded Saints safety Marcus Williams and ran to the end zone to complete the 61-yard touchdown pass. This game was the first in NFL playoff history to end in a touchdown as time expired.

In the aftermath, Keenum and Diggs were lauded for their efforts on the game-winning score, while Williams received criticism for his errant tackle attempt. The Vikings' radio call by Paul Allen – who described the play as a "Minneapolis Miracle" – went viral and became the popular appellation for both the play and the game itself. The play won multiple end-of-year awards and prompted a change to the rules.

Morten Andersen

Morten Andersen (born August 19, 1960), nicknamed the "Great Dane", is a Danish former American football kicker and All-American at Michigan State University. He is the all-time leader in games played in the NFL, with 382. He formerly held both the NFL records for field goals and points scored, both records were broken by Adam Vinatieri in 2018. At retirement, Andersen was the all-time leading scorer for two different rival teams; the New Orleans Saints, with whom he spent 13 seasons, and the Atlanta Falcons, with whom he spent a combined eight seasons.

He retired in 2008, after not playing for a team that season. Andersen was announced as a member of the 2017 induction class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame at that year's NFL Honors. He is only the second exclusive placekicker inducted in the Hall of Fame, and the first since Jan Stenerud in 1991.

NFL's Greatest Games

NFL's Greatest Games is a series of television programs that air on NFL Network, ESPN and related networks. They are condensed versions of some of the most famous games in the history of the National Football League, using footage and sound captured by NFL Films, as well as original interviews. All installments produced before 2015 are 90 minutes in length, and are presented with a title in respect to the game being featured. Starting in 2015, new installments produced run for either 30 minutes, 60 minutes, or 90 minutes, and no longer have a title beyond the actual game itself that is featured.

The series began with Super Bowl III, the New York Jets' 16-7 upset of the Baltimore Colts. ESPN debuted the program in 1999, on the 30th anniversary of the original game. More telecasts followed in the ensuing months.

In 2007, NFL Network unveiled Super Bowl Classics, a version of this program using complete videotaped games.

The "NFL's Greatest Games" banner is also occasionally used for episodes of the 1970s public television series The Way It Was that covered classic NFL games prior to 1958.

NFL on Westwood One Sports

The NFL on Westwood One Sports is the branding for Cumulus Broadcasting subsidiary Westwood One's radio coverage of the National Football League. The broadcasts were previously branded with the CBS Radio and (for one season) Dial Global marques; CBS Radio was the original Westwood One's parent company and Dial Global purchased the company in 2011. Dial Global has since reverted its name to Westwood One after merging with Cumulus Media Networks.

Westwood One's package includes the Sunday Night Football game, the Monday Night Football game, the Thanksgiving Day games, Thursday Night Football (beginning in 2006), any late-season Friday and Saturday night games, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, mid-season NFL International Series games (since 2009), the season-opening NFL Kickoff Game, all playoff games, the Super Bowl, and the Pro Bowl. These games are distributed throughout the United States and (through TSN Radio) Canada.

Wide Right (Buffalo Bills)

Wide Right, a.k.a. 47 Wide Right, was Scott Norwood's missed 47-yard field goal attempt for the Buffalo Bills at the end of Super Bowl XXV on January 27, 1991, as described by sportscaster Al Michaels. The missed field goal resulted in the game being won by the New York Giants. The phrase "wide right" has since become synonymous with the game itself, and has since been used in other sports. This game is also called The Miss by some Bills fans.

Wildcat formation

Wildcat formation describes a formation for the offense in football in which the ball is snapped not to the quarterback but directly to a player of another position lined up at the quarterback position. (In most systems, this is a running back, but some playbooks have the wide receiver, fullback, or tight end taking the snap.) The Wildcat features an unbalanced offensive line and looks to the defense like a sweep behind zone blocking. A player moves across the formation prior to the snap. However, once this player crosses the position of the running back who will receive the snap, the play develops unlike the sweep.

The Wildcat is a gambit rather than an overall offensive philosophy. It can be a part of many offenses. For example, a spread-option offense might use the Wildcat formation to keep the defense guessing, or a West Coast offense may use the power-I formation to threaten a powerful run attack.

The Wildcat scheme is a derivation of Pop Warner's Single Wing offense dating back to the 1920s. The Wildcat was invented by Billy Ford and Ryan Wilson, and was originally called the "Dual" formation. The offensive coaching staff of the Kansas State Wildcats, namely Bill Snyder and Del Miller, made significant contributions to the formation's development throughout the 1990s and 2000s and is often cited as being the formation's namesake. It has been used since the late 1990s at every level of the game, including the CFL, NFL, NCAA, NAIA, and high schools across North America. Coaching staffs have used it with variations and have given their versions a variety of names. The Wildcat was reinvented by South Carolina Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier in 2005 against the Kentucky Wildcats to utilize Syvelle Newton in all offensive positions on the field. The experiment by Spurrier was taken and perfected by the Arkansas Razorbacks the following year with the 3 headed monster backfield of Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, and Peyton Hillis.

Scoring summary
Quarter Time Drive Team Scoring information Score
Plays Yards TOP ATL MIN
1 8:21 12 76 6:39 ATL J. Anderson 5-yard touchdown reception from Chandler, Andersen kick good 7 0
1 5:33 4 80 2:48 MIN Moss 31-yard touchdown reception from Cunningham, G. Anderson kick good 7 7
2 9:52 12 48 6:16 MIN 29-yard field goal by G. Anderson 7 10
2 5:53 6 33 3:41 MIN Cunningham 1-yard touchdown run, G. Anderson kick good 7 17
2 2:45 6 39 1:28 MIN 35-yard field goal by G. Anderson 7 20
2 0:56 1 14 0:03 ATL Mathis 14-yard touchdown reception from Chandler, Andersen kick good 14 20
3 5:36 10 62 6:03 ATL 27-yard field goal by Andersen 17 20
4 13:41 15 82 6:55 MIN Hatchette 6-yard touchdown reception from Cunningham, G. Anderson kick good 17 27
4 11:02 7 73 2:39 ATL 24-yard field goal by Andersen 20 27
4 0:49 8 71 1:18 ATL Mathis 16-yard touchdown reception from Chandler, Andersen kick good 27 27
OT 3:08 10 70 5:20 ATL 38-yard field goal by Andersen 30 27
"TOP" = time of possession. For other American football terms, see Glossary of American football. 30 27
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