I’ve been a Vikings fan since their first season in Minnesota. In September 1961 my late cousin Lynn Johnson took me to the first Vikings game at the old Met Stadium in Bloomington. Coach Norm Van Brocklin sent in rookie Fran Tarkenton from the bench to replace George Shaw at quarterback. Doing his thing, Tarkenton threw four touchdown passes to lead the Vikings to an improbable victory over the Bears. No expansion team had ever won the first game of its inaugural season. Sid Hartman was there and recalled the game with a little help from Tarkenton in a 2016 column.
After four Super Bowl losses, however, Vikings fans have grown accustomed to shocking disappointments in the team’s playoff games. Talking about yesterday’s Vikings-Saints NFC divisional playoff game last week, a friend alluded to the ghost of Vikings’ playoff games past. The Vikings would win the game against the Saints, he predicted, because it wouldn’t be sufficiently heartbreaking to lose the game before the NFC championship game. As the game unfolded, however, I thought it had played out perfectly to rival past losses as the most heartbreaking of all.
You can hear the other side of heartbreak in the call of the game’s last play by hometown radio team Paul Allen and (former Vikings linebacker) Pete Bercich on KFAN. I’ll leave it at that.
— Corey Marra (@coribald) January 15, 2018
Speaking of ghosts, I appreciated the musical angle in one explanation of what happened on the final play.
— PAUL BAE (@realPB) January 15, 2018
PAUL ADDS: This wasn’t just a victory for the Vikings but also for coaches who preach “hit what you see” and “wrap up.” Where was Chuck Bednarik when the Saints needed him.
There’s a Washington, D.C. area angle to this game. Kai Forbath was the Redskins’ place kicker for a while, and a good one. The team let him go, and he joined a pretty long line of kickers released by the Skins who have gone on to success elsewhere, while we still struggle to find a reliable guy.
Stefon Diggs, who scored the incredible winning touchdown, is one of the best players ever to come out of Montgomery County, where I live (the great Mike Curtis is the only NFL star I can think of off-hand who was better). He starred for Good Counsel, the local Catholic high school in my neighborhood when I was growing up.
Diggs played his college ball at the University of Maryland. Unfortunately, injuries dogged him in college, which is why the Vikings were able to get him in the fifth round of the draft.