The Vikings start the season a week from Thursday and it begins where everything ended so horribly in January: New Orleans. That loss in the NFC title game was simply the latest chapter in a heartbreaking book that's become a serialized novel. The story will apparently never conclude and none of the chapters will end in happiness.
There have been highlights of course, games that didn't end with tears and conspiracy theories. It's just that those games take place in the regular season.
Here's perhaps the most famous play in Vikings history, at least for games they won. It came in December 1980 at Met Stadium, and clinched the division title for the Vikings. The Vikings trailed the Browns 23-22 when Tommy Kramer hooked up with Michael Jordan's future spokesman, Ahmad Rashad, for a 47-yard touchdown as time expired. Kramer finished with 456 yards passing on the day. One play earlier, the Vikings had reached the Cleveland 47 thanks to a hook and lateral play between Joe Senser and Teddy Brown. Rashad's catch is one of the coolest Hail Mary completions in football history. He's practically an afterthought on the play, right up until he reaches out and makes the one-handed grab.
The playoffs that year? A 31-16 loss to Philadelphia. Of course.
It's a testament to the tortured history of the franchise that the Vikings could be involved in one of the most famous Hail Mary finishes in league history, but it's not even the most memorable one in team history.
That, of course, came in the 1975 NFC playoffs against the Cowboys, when Roger Staubach connected with Drew Pearson on the play that continues to enrage Vikings fans 35 years later. Actually, it's not just Pearson's winning catch. Two players earlier, Staubach and Pearson came through on a fourth-and-17 play, as Pearson made a catch on the sidelines that, according to Purple fans, should have been ruled incomplete. Here's the whole mess. Pay special attention to the security guard on the Vikings sideline. After Pearson falls to the ground after his fourth down catch, this keeper of the peace throws a little kick at the Cowboys receiver. Maybe the guy knew what was coming.
Even today, there are probably some Viking fans who watch this and throw a beer bottle across the living room, in a homage to the moron who drilled Armen Terzian in the head with one following the game.
Many people expect the Saints to hammer the Vikings in the opening week. Maybe. But there's a decent chance the Vikings will go in there, Favre will look like he's 25 years old, the defense will dominate and Adrian Peterson will manage to run over defenders while holding onto the ball. Regular season games have never been a problem for the Vikings. True debacles come in the playoffs. The countdown to January begins. And the ghosts of Stram, Pearson, Nelson, Anderson and 12 men on the field will be along for the ride, just waiting for the newest chapter to be written.