Real tough losses. Real. Tough. Losses. (apologies to Wrangler jeans)
Ask a casual Viking fan what losses were toughest to take and you might hear about the four Super Bowl losses. Ask a real Vikings fan about real, tough losses and there will be no debate.
1) 1999, HHH Metrodome. Atlanta Falcons. 1998 NFC Championship.
No real explanation is necessary. The game was ours. We were the better team. We were the best team in the league. A late Second Quarter turnover kept them in it.
Gary Anderson's only miss of the year gave them a chance. A dropped interception by Robert Griffin foreshadowed the inevitable. A kneel down made us look and feel beat. And a Morten Andersen field goal in overtime gave us a sick feeling deep in our stomachs.
2) 1975, Metropolitan Stadium. Dallas Cowboys. NFC Divisional Playoff.
Little did those Vikings fans who watched that fateful game realize that they would see the play (over and over and over for the rest of their pitiful Vikings fan lives) that would define the Vikings existence forever, or at least until they win the Super Bowl.
He pushed off. We all know it. He knows it. But it doesn't matter. We lost, at least on paper. And the inferior Cowboys went to the Super Bowl.
3) 1988, RFK Stadium. 1987 NFC Championship.
Once again we were the best team on paper. We survived the strike losses that put us into a hole and required us to make our move on the road. We crushed New Orleans in the Superdome. AC put on a show at Candlestick. We went to JFK knowing we would win.
A funny thing happened on the way to the Super Bowl though. We lost. We lost because Darin Nelson didn't hold on to the ball near the end zone. Sure, if you watch the replay it is debatable whether he would have made the end zone even if he had held on.
But in Viking lore, he holds on, he gets in, and we win in overtime.
4) 2004, Sun Devil Stadium. Final game of the 2003 season.
Win and in. We knew it would be a classic battle. An inferior Cardinal team with nothing on the line but the No. 1 draft pick against a Viking team that struggled on the road. The Vikes need a win over the Cardinals or a Packers' loss. The Vikes had the game in hand, and the Pack was in dire straits in their own game.
Suddenly, a series of inexplicable (but pretty much expected by down-trodden Vikings fans) events occurred. Cards score. Packers come back and win. Cards recover onside. Vikings never recover.
He was out of bounds. The refs know it. The Cardinals know it. We know it, but we were home for the holidays.
5) 2001, Giants Stadium. 2000 NFC Championship.
41-doughnut. We knew we weren't the best or even the better team in that game.
Daunte has a surprising come out season. Randy dazzled us. We struggled down the stretch but managed to play well enough to make the NFC Championship. Fate would give us a win for all of those disappointing games when we weren't he best team.
But by the middle of the First Quarter...the outcome was not longer in doubt. We not only lost the game, but our confidence for years to come. It was our last NFC Championship and we are still waiting, waiting, and waiting to make amends.