American Football

The Curse of 1998: Part 6


NFL: NFC Wild Card-Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings
Yeah…. ehhh. | Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Time to lick some wounds

The last month of the Vikings’ 2009 season was like watching a slow-motion car accident in a movie.

Having just gotten up to speed, Brett Favre, AP, and company swerved down the stretch of the regular season only to find themselves regain traction in the first round of the playoffs.

Ultimately though, that traction came too late, and ran smack into the barrels of water put in front of where the exit splits from the interstate.

Like said figurative car, and their quarterback, the Vikings were totaled after a go-for-broke season ending in heartbreak.

2010, well, that was the year the Vikings got their car towed, arriving at the body shop of the new season a dilapidated mess. There was simply not enough time between the end of January and the dawn of September to fix anything.

Disappointment consumed the franchise.

Favre was completely out of gas, Peterson was going down on a sinking ship, and the defense was average at best (18th out of 32 in pts against).

The team went from 2nd best in points scored to 3rd-worst by the end of 2010’s regular season in an absolutely mind-melting descent. Favre threw 11 TD’s and 19 INTs in his final season, all the while selling the CopperFit arm sleeves my grandparents wore under their shirts. It was his last season in the NFL.

It was also Brad Childress’s as well. His, um, unique style of dictatorship alienated him in the locker room and the owners’ office and a 3-7 start was just the excuse the Wilfs were looking for.

He never held a Head Coaching position in the NFL again.

The 6-10 record says it all (let alone finishing behind the Lions), but what says more is that the average loss was by 13.5 points.

What I remember being the most demoralizing game was the first, when the Vikings had to drag their sorry asses back down to New Orleans to play the now-defending Super Bowl Champs after just being beaten to death by them.

It was only a 9-14 loss, but I wanted to puke even before kickoff. It was the closest thing I had felt to an automatic L.

6-10 was followed by 3-13 in 2011, a mark that was just a resigned “whatever, dude” in the first full season under Leslie Frazier.

While the team struggled, silver linings could be found in how the organization was treating Peterson, who landed a massive 7-year, $98 million (highest-ever for a RB) contract in 2011 after his rookie contract (+ option) expired.

Aaaaaand Peterson tore his MCL and ACL in the second to last game of a meaningful season. Yeeeesh.

Peterson held up his end of the bargain higher than ever in 2012, however, winning the NFL MVP award by 11 votes over Peyton Manning and passing Robert Smith for the all-time franchise rushing yards mark.

In a game that was a long-awaited beacon of relief for the franchise, the Vikings hosted Green Bay in a win-or-die matchup to end the regular season. Peterson was only 208 yards away from the NFL single season rushing record too. AP had just put up 210 against the Pack a month ago.

Peterson, in the second to last play of the game, came just 9 yards away from the record with only 15 seconds left on the clock in a tie game.

Rookie Blair Walsh, in his last act during a pro-bowl regular season, kicked the Vikings into the postseason and denied the cheeseheads of the NFC’s first seed.

Fraizer had turned a 3-13 dumpster rebuild into a 10-6 playoff team, the franchise’s best single-season turnaround. He would end up finishing 4th in NFL Coach of the Year voting.

But, like everything for this team, it didn’t matter. The Vikings were handily beaten the next week at Lambeau, and that was that.

After a 5-10-1 season in 2013, Fraizer was fired, eventually replaced by a new kind of authoritarian, Mike Zimmer.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Minnesota Vikings
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Mike Zimmer was a defense-first hard-ass, but that would eventually bring the team back into contention after an unremarkable few years under Leslie Frazier.

A 7-9 season in 2014 got the juices flowing again, and the Vikes were back to knocking on the door in 2015 at 11-5 winning the NFC north en route to a wild-card weekend matchup against the Seattle Seahawks.

-6 degrees. TCF Bank Stadium. -25 Wind chill. Bud Grant in a T-shirt. The pre-game atmosphere couldn’t be any more Minnesotan, and it was awesome.

In a game that was more at home in the early history of the NFL, the Vikings held firm through 3 quarters, up 9-0 heading into the fourth.

Before the Vikings knew it it was 10-9 after Seattle generated enough body heat to score a TD to open the 4th quarter and, not long after, take the lead with a 46-yd boot.

Blair Walsh, perfect all game in which only one TD was scored by either team and fresh off- his almost-best season (by volume of makes and FG%), stepped up to take the kick with 26 seconds left, from 27 yards.

It was a kick that, fairly or unfairly, defined Walsh’s career. Say the name around Minneapolis, and a smile will be wiped away from anyone that hears it.

It was divine intervention, brought back in a much more recognizable form at the worst possible time. We never had to worry about what happened in 1998 happening again for the 18 years between this game and that. The kick was always made, or it was never necessary.

I once heard that a beautiful sunset or the perfect rainbow could be the work of God. But the Devil, well, he always signs his work. We all know exactly where (or who) this came from and the Vikings were left wondering just what the hell had happened.

Through the next years both Daniel Carlson (3 misses against Green Bay in his second-ever game) and Dan Bailey (see, below, after signing a 3-year, $10m contract) would add painful memories to the Vikings kicking game.

After so many years of never having to worry about this crap (I was ~1.5 years old in ‘98), Walsh’s miss is still the one that does it for me.

Next week will bring the final entry, and final steps though hell, to the end of this divine comedy of a series. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5 can be found on Daily Norseman.

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