Moller: The curse that continues to haunt the Minnesota Vikings
Nate Moller | Thursday, January 26, 2023
The Vikings’ record in one-score games in the regular season: 11-0. The Vikings’ record in one-score games in the playoffs: 0-1.
That’s pretty much all that is needed to sum up yet another season that ended in heartbreaking fashion for the Minnesota Vikings. They yet again fell victim to a curse that has haunted their franchise since its inception more than 60 years ago.
Although I tried to keep my expectations in check for the Vikings this year, it was hard to contain my excitement after they continued to pull off exciting win after exciting win in the regular season.
It was after the Vikings found a way to win the “game of the year” against the Bills that I really started to believe in this team. After winning by a score of 33-30 to improve to 8-1, it began to feel like this team had a legitimate chance to be a Super Bowl contender. In past seasons, those close games, like the one in Buffalo, were games the Vikings simply couldn’t seem to win. But this year felt different.
Although the Vikings had slip-ups against the Cowboys and Lions over the coming weeks, they continued to win close games against respectable teams and seemed like a legitimate contender.
And then came the game against the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 17 at U.S. Bank Stadium — a game I attended in-person. The Vikings came in as heavy favorites against the lackluster Colts, with a chance to clinch the NFC North with a win.
In the first half, the Vikings were atrocious, and they found themselves in a stunning 33-0 deficit at half. What happened in the second, however, was nothing short of magical. The Vikings truly pulled off the impossible, as they battled back to win 39-36 in overtime and completed the biggest comeback in NFL history. The atmosphere at that game was truly unlike any game I have ever attended. After that, I truly believed that this Vikings team was destined for greatness in the playoffs.
After winning two of their last three games to finish the season 13-4, the Vikings secured the three seed in the NFC and earned themselves a date with the New York Giants in the Wild Card round. They beat the Giants just a few weeks earlier on Christmas Eve, and I had the utmost confidence coming into this game.
The first offensive drive resulted in a touchdown for the Vikings, but that would be the only time the Vikings led the whole game. The Giants went on to tear up the Vikings’ defense. On their first two drives, the Giants scored two touchdowns and tallied 156 yards off of just nine plays. Although the Vikings managed to stay within striking distance, there were a couple of critical plays that were simply head-scratching and contributed to the seven-point loss.
The first of these head scratchers was a critical third-and-one for the Vikings early in the game with the score tied at seven. The Vikings desperately needed a first down to keep the redhot Giants offense off the field, and instead of running the ball, they drew up a lateral to wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who then threw the ball to quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins ended up getting dropped for a loss of two yards. Why in the world would you let Cousins use his legs on a third and short, especially when Dalvin Cook is one of the best running backs in the league? The Vikings were forced to punt the ball away and subsequently watched the Giants march down the field after this blunder.
The other crucial play happened at the beginning of the fourth quarter with the Vikings trailing 24-21. The Vikings faced a fourth-and-one from the Giants’ 16-yard line, and they lined up to go for it. It looked like the Vikings had the first down on a run up the middle, but left tackle Christian Darrisaw jumped before the snap. The ball was moved back, and the Vikings were forced to kick a field goal to tie it instead of having a chance to take the lead.
Then, the biggest head scratcher of them all occurred on the final drive of the game. With the Vikings down seven and facing a fourth and 15 from their own 48-yard line, Kirk Cousins threw a short check down pass to tight end T.J. Hockenson for three yards. Although Cousins faced heavy pressure, he needed to give his team a chance. I would have rather had him chuck it up blindly toward Jefferson than to seemingly admit defeat by throwing it underneath to Hockenson. Jefferson made some phenomenal catches this year and he might have had another one in him, but now we will never know. The play was so perplexing that after the game, veteran cornerback Patrick Peterson said that “[Cousins] must not have known what down it was.”
This series of unfortunate events is just another saga in the disappointing life of a Vikings fan. If you really want a list of all the Vikings’ blunders in the playoffs, you would need to talk to my grandparents, as they witnessed the Vikings lose four Super Bowls in the 1970s. But even in my lifetime, this loss hurt just as much as the disappointing losses in the 2010 and 2018 NFC Championship games against the Saints and the Eagles.
If the Vikings were just a bad team, it would be a lot easier. But that’s the problem. It seems like the Vikings are always just good enough to build up my hopes, but never good enough to win the Super Bowl. To prove my point that the Vikings are historically a good football team, they ranked seventh in the NFL in all-time winning percentage coming into the 2022 season. This winning percentage is better than the 49ers, Steelers and Giants — all teams that have at least four Super Bowls. The Vikings, however, have nothing to show for their stellar winning percentage.
I could continue ranting for days about the Vikings and pointing fingers at various players, coaches and front office employees. I’ve realized now, though, that maybe it isn’t any one specific person or group of people. It seems to be something bigger than that. For whatever reason, the Minnesota Vikings are a franchise that is always destined for failure in the playoffs, regardless of how good they are in the regular season. The Vikings are a cursed franchise that might never win a Super Bowl.
Contact Nate Moller at [email protected].
The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.