The world at large is slowly starting to wake from its self-imposed slumber. Nations, states, cities, and towns everywhere are beginning their attempts at resuming life – whatever that may look like in a pre-vaccine COVID-19 world. For sports leagues around the globe, plans are already in place or currently being hammered out to resume competition. While details are still being discussed, negotiations are still being had, and logistical challenges are being addressed, we at The Turf are continuing our “Filling the Void” series. Since mid-March, we’ve been looking back on remarkable, historic, inspiring and noteworthy sports stories of days gone by.
A Battle of Legs
This was a game that most had written off before it ever started. The top two seeds in the NFC had found their way to this game, in different fashions. By the time it was done and dusted – most people were talking about the kickers.
Today: 1998 NFC Championship – Atlanta Falcons v. Minnesota Vikings
Anderson played in the NFL for 23 years. During that time, he accomplished a lot. He was named to the Pro Bowl four times and set a bunch of records, both of the “single season” and “career” variety. In 1998 he became the first placekicker to record a perfect regular season. He converted 59 extra point attempts and made all 35 field goals that year. Sadly though, it’s a single moment in this game that lives on in the memory of Vikings fans.
On the other sideline was Danish placekicker Morten Andersen. His season wasn’t perfect (he was 23 of 28 on field goals and 51 of 52 on extra points). While Gary’s missed kick has been a painful memory in Minnesota, Morten’s final kick in this game earned the Atlanta Falcons their first-ever trip to the Super Bowl.
More Than The Kickers
The Vikings came into this game as the highest-scoring offense in history at the time. They finished the regular season at 15-1 and were heavily favored. The trio of Randall Cunningham, Chris Carter, and Randy Moss were key pieces of an offense that put up 556 points. Future Hall of Famer John Randle was the face of a defense that finished the season ranked 6th overall in points allowed. It was almost a foregone conclusion that this team would be playing in the Super Bowl. In fact, the two previous teams to finish the season with a 15-1 record (’84 San Francisco 49ers and ’85 Chicago Bears) had both gone on to win it.
The Falcons, after having only reached the postseason twice in the previous 15 years, found themselves in this game for the first time in franchise history. They were led by journeyman QB Chris Chandler and RB Jamal Anderson (yes, another one), who led the NFC with 1,846 rushing yards that season. Their defense was the fourth-ranked overall.
Sure – everyone remembers the drama in the kicking game – but this was a tight affair throughout, and is worth the watch. Did I mention that Pat Summerall and John Madden had the call??
See You Tomorrow. Stay Smart. Stay Safe. Wash Your Hands.
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