With a rare visit to Baltimore scheduled for Sunday it got me thinking of some of my favorite Viking memories. Here’s some old and new from the other purple team I’ve been watching since they born in the Twin Cities in 1961.
* The Vikings had only one winning season in their first 7 years, but they were must see TV. Norm Van Brocklin was a tough coach with a tough team and the most exciting quarterback in the game. They played outdoors at Metropolitan Stadium where November and December weather made football survival of the fittest.
The Purple People Defense was lead by Hall of Famers Alan Page and Carl Eller, the offense had Fran Tarkenton and tough as nails fullback Bill Brown with his flat-top haircut.
Tarkenton came off the bench to throw 4 TD’s passes and run for another in the first game of his Hall of Fame career. I’ve seen better qb’s but none more exciting. He invented extending the play, scrambling from one sideline to the other, spinning, twirling with huffing and puffing defensive linemen left in his wake. He had eyes in the back of his helmet just when it looked like he’d be sacked a quick twist, spin and away he’d go. Amazing!
* Bud Grant left the CFL for Minnesota (he didn’t warm up) and took over the Vikings in 1967. He turned them into one of the top teams in the NFL. In an 8 year period from 1969-1976 the Vikings had double digit wins 7 times. That nasty defense, rugged QB Joe Kapp and later the return of Tarkenton these Vikings won just about everything but the Super Bowl. During the 8 years they lost 4 Super Bowls.
* Fredrick, Maryland native Chuck Foreman. The man looked like a player the moment you spotted him in uniform and he was. From 1973-’78 Chuck Foreman was one of the top running backs in the NFL. He was one of the leagues earliest and best combo backs. 3 straight 1,000 yard rushing seasons, back to back 13 touchdown seasons and what a receiver. In 1975 he caught 73 passes for 691 yards. His career was basically 6 seasons and he made 5 Pro Bowl’s. Special player the kid from Fredrick.
* Wrong Way! Among the most famous plays in NFL history. Jim Marshall picked up a fumble against the 49ers on October 25th, 1964 and took it 66 yards to the house (I don’t think they said that then?), but like some Christmas mail it arrived at the WRONG house! Marshall got spun around when picking up the football and headed in the wrong direction. What he thought was a TD was a safety when he celebrated dropped the ball and it rolled out of the end zone. He would be “Wrong Way” the rest of his Hall of Fame life. The Vikings won the game on a Marshall sack that turned into a touchdown.
* 1998 what a show. The Vikings offense was nearly unstoppable. With Randall Cunningham throwing to Chris Carter, rookie Randy Moss (1,313 and 17 TD’s) and Robert Smith running the ball the Vikings scored an NFL record 556 points on their way to a 15-1 season. In the NFC Championship game they were an 11-point favorite over a good Atlanta team (14-2), that’s when it came undone. The Vikings were up 7 with about 2 minutes left when Gary Anderson missed his first field goal of the season. Atlanta went on to win the game in overtime crushing the Vikings dream. A few days later Vikings offensive coordinator Brian Billick was named Ravens head coach.
* Oh Brother! From the Aberdeen Eagles to the Maryland Terps to the Vikings. The brothers Henderson, first E.J. and now Erin right in the middle of the Vikings defense. Big bro E.J. was a Pro Bowler with the Vikings younger brother Erin is now in his third year as a starting linebacker with a 100 tackle season to his credit. How proud was the Henderson family when both E.J. and Erin were starting side by side at linebacker in the 2011.
* AP all day. There’s not much to tell you about Adrian Peterson that you don’t know. I know this, we are watching one of the greatest ever to carry the football. Comparisons to Jim Brown, Walter Payton, O.J. Simpson, and Barry Sanders for another day just appreciate greatness. What he accomplished last year is off the charts. Coming back from ACL surgery with little threat of a passing game Peterson ran for nearly 21-hundred yards and averaged 6 yards a carry with 12 touchdowns. Of course he was the NFL’s MVP. Peterson holds the NFL record with a 296 yard rushing game and all defensive coordinators hold their breath every time he touches the ball.
As for Sunday it looks like the Ravens finish the 3-game home stand with a sweep. How about Baltimore purple 27 the original purple 17.