What If: The Greatest Super Bowl Never Played
The Broncos, fresh off their demon-slaying win the year before in San Diego against the defending champion Packers, still had the talent and were poised to repeat. They won their first 13 games before a loss to the Giants at the Meadowlands 20-16 on a late TD pass.
They lost the next week in Miami before closing the season out on a high note at home against Seattle. In that game, Terrell Davis became only the fourth back in NFL history to go over 2,000 yards. They ended the season 14-2, and were ready for the playoffs.
In the Divisional round, they pounded Miami 38-3, setting up a clash with Parcells and the Jets at home for the AFC Championship. The Jets were up 10-0 after a blocked punt and a Curtis Martin TD. That awoke the champs. Elway went to work, hitting McCaffrey for a long bomb, then hit Howard Griffith for a TD to get within three.
The special teams took over after that. The Jets missed a kickoff, Denver recovered, and Elam tied it at 10. After two Elam FG and a Davis 31-yard TD, Denver closed out a 23-10 win and headed off to Miami for a repeat.
The 1998 Vikings were an offensive whirlwind. They scored 556 points during the regular season. What made the difference for this team, who only got to the Divisional Playoffs once in five of six tries under Green, was the drafting of Randy Moss. He gave their offense an added dimension. He had 69 catches for 1,313 yards and 17 TD, which are still rookie records.
QB Randall Cunningham was a big help when he replaced Brad Johnson after his injury. He had his best NFL Season with 3,704 yards passing, 34 TD passes, and a 106.0 rating. He also won the Bert Bell award that year for Player of the Year by the Maxwell Football Club. With those two, Cris Carter, Jake Reed, Robert Smith, and a great O-line featuring Todd Steussie and Jeff Christy, this 15-1 team was ready to make some noise in the playoffs.
Their first playoff game was against the Cardinals. Aeneas Williams was doing some trash talking that week, but it didn't help his team, as you could imagine. Randall Cunningham had a good game, going 17 for 27 with three TD's and an INT, and the Vikings parlayed a 24-7 halftime lead into a 41-21 win.
The only time in the game where the Cards may have had a chance to retaliate was late in the third quarter down 27-14, but a fumbled snap by Jake Plummer was the break the Vikes needed to run away with the game, and meet their date with destiny.
Their next opponent was the Falcons. Nobody in the country gave them a chance. They were 11-point underdogs. During the NFL Greatest Games show, Jamal Anderson said he was walking through the Mall of America, and Vikings' fans were saying things like "thanks for coming" and "you had a great year." Jamal was puzzled because they hadn't even played the game yet.
So, at the beginning of the game, the Falcons got the ball and marched down to take a 7-0 lead on a five-yard TD pass from Chris Chandler to Jamal Anderson. However, the favored Vikes flexed their muscle, and went up 20-7 right before halftime. Chuck Smith then sacked Randall Cunningham and the Falcons recovered a fumble. Chandler hit Terance Mathis for a TD to close the deficit to 20-14, and the Falcons were right in there.
After two Morten Anderson FG's and a Cunningham-to-Hatchette TD in the second half, it was 27-20. However, the Vikes had the ball late in the game and were threatening to put it away. Then, it happened. Gary Anderson, who was perfect all year, missed a FG. The Falcons went down and tied it, and eventually would win it in OT on a Morten Andersen FG, capping off one of the biggest upsets in NFL history.
But, what if the Vikings won? What if Gary didn't miss?
Personally, in my opinion, it would have set the stage for the greatest SB of all-time. The Vikings and Broncos were great that year. It would have been one for the ages. It may have went to OT. What do you think would have happened?
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