Since their inception in 1961, the Vikings have been part of some classic games and rivalries.
Between the meteoric rise of the Purple People Eaters in the 60s and 70s to the historic 1998 Vikings offense, to the rise of Adrian Peterson and, yes, Brett Favre, the team has been a part of more NFL history than non-fans might realize.
They've had some of the most electric offensive weapons, one of the greatest defenses of all time, and two hall of fame head coaches.
Now, there have been many, many classic moments I could list here, and I'm sure I've missed a few of your favorites. But these are my top moments in Minnesota Vikings history.
10. October 12, 1975 — Chuck Foreman dominates the Jets
Chuck Foreman had some great rushing performances, but on a day where the Vikings needed Foreman to do everything, he delivered.
Foreman scored three times, catching two and rushing for one, put up 96 yards on the ground, and grabbing 105 receiving yards, accounting for 18 of the Vikings 29 points.
Forman’s performance in this game keyed a 1975 Pro Bowl run for the featured back, and yet another playoff appearance for the Vikings and keeping an aging team successful well into the 1970s.
9. November 13, 1967 — Purple People Eaters force 11 Fumbles
There may not have been a game that showcased the Vikings’ defensive abilities better than how they dominated the Detroit Lions, putting constant pressure on the Lions’ backfield and forcing an NFL record 11 fumbles.
This is even more impressive considering two things. First, the offense was so ineffective that they only forced a 10-10 tie in this game. Second, the team only ended up 3-8-3 this season.
While it took the offense a few years to match the intensity of the Viking’s defense, there were few more definitive performances by the Purple People eaters than their dominance of the Lions.
8. December 27, 1969 — First Playoff win
This game ushered in an era of a Vikings team that would dominate the NFL/NFC Playoff scene for most of the next decade.
While quarterback Joe Kapp didn’t exactly have career stats (12/19/196/0/2), he played well enough to keep the team in contention, and the legendary Vikings defensive line known as the Purple People Eaters harried Roman Gabriel and the Rams offense.
The Vikings would ride the momentum from this win to take the NFL title the next week, and to a remarkable four Super Bowls in the next seven years.
7. August 18, 2009 — Brett Favre signs with Vikings
It may be a little early to talk about this as one of the “Great” moments in Vikings history, but never has the national spotlight on the Vikings been brighter.
In the late morning hours, Brett Favre stepped into a black SUV with Vikings Coach Brad Childress, and the national sports media dropped whatever it was doing to rush to Winter Park to witness the culmination of the long courtship between the Vikings and Favre.
Even if things don’t ultimately work out between the Vikings and Favre, fans will never forget the helicopter chase, fans lining the streets, and reporters storming the Vikings’ practice facilities, as the Green Bay Packers greatest quarterback was fitted for a purple uniform for the first time.
6. November 26, 1998 — Moss shreds Cowboys on Thanksgiving
It was a record setting season for the Vikings, and there was no one more emblematic of that than Randy Moss. The eccentric rookie had burst onto the scene in week five, destroying the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football for 190 yards and two touchdowns.
However, Moss was thrust into the national spotlight eight weeks later, when, on national TV, Moss caught three touchdown passes and the Vikings put away the powerhouse Cowboys 46-36.
The game marked the beginning of the national media’s obsession with Moss, as it was really the first time the nation really took notice of the Vikings record setting offense and its catalyst.
Moss has had some huge games since then, but this game is still pointed to as one of the cornerstones of his spectacular career.
5. January 9, 1988 — Vikings Shock 49ers
At 8-7, Jerry Burns’s Vikings had limped into the Playoffs, and despite a victory over the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card round, the Vikings seemed set up to be slaughtered by a 49ers team that featured Joe Montana and Steve Young.
However, the biggest shock was reserved for the 49ers, who were shut down by the Vikings defense, led by Chris Doleman, whose pressure forced Montana out of the game, and helped hold Jerry Rice to 28 yards receiving.
For an unheralded unit to take apart one of the most heralded teams of the 80s, and perhaps all-time, was an impressive feat in 1988, and holds as one of the best performances by the Vikings even today.
4. September 17, 1961 — First Game, Fran Tarkenton makes a name for himself
Nobody expected much out of the Minnesota Vikings on this day. They were a brand new expansion team, playing the well established Chicago Bears. Career journeyman George Shaw was set to be the Vikings' quarterback and the stage was set for a miserable afternoon.
But a strange thing happened during the game. The Vikings defense played far better than anyone ever suspected, and a young rookie named Fran Tarkenton came off the bench and dominated the Bears in the second half, scoring five touchdowns and throwing for 250 yards.
The upstart Vikings won that day 37-13 and while the team would wind up going 3-11 that season, it set the stage for a Hall of Fame career for Tarkenton, and the foundation for one of the NFL’s most storied franchises.
3. September 28, 1969 — Joe Kapp lights up the Baltimore Colts for seven touchdowns.
It’s still considered by many to be the best performance ever by a Vikings offense. Joe Kapp dissected the Baltimore Colts, throwing for 449 yards, and seven touchdowns.
Perhaps even more impressively, Kapp hit six different receivers for his scores, only hitting Gene Washington with a second toss.
Kapp is often forgotten in Vikings lore, because Fran Tarkenton had a flashier career, but he was a solid quarterback during the formative years of the team’s history.
Still, not many expected him do this against Don Shula’s Colts, who had just made a Super Bowl appearance the previous year, and were still expected to be a contender.
2. November 4, 2007 — AD Rushes for 296 Yards
Adrian Peterson had already shown flashes during his rookie season that he was going to be an extraordinarily special back, but this performance moved him from the realm of “good” to “great.”
With an unspectacular team, mixing Tarvaris Jackson and Brooks Bollinger at quarterback, the Vikings were dominated in the first half, falling behind 14-7 after Antonio Cromartie’s record-setting 109-yard kick return for a touchdown seconds before halftime.
Peterson, however, came out and dominated the second half, scoring twice himself and setting up another as the Vikings scored 28 points to shock the Chargers 35-17.
The big story, however, was Peterson’s 296 rushing yards, carrying the Vikings, breaking Jamal Lewis’ record and setting the table for a special rookie season.
1. March 10, 1967 — Bud Grant Hired
It was a rather low key moment, in retrospect, but undoubtedly the biggest in Vikings history.
In 1967, the team’s founder Max Winter was faced with the prospect of having to replace the legendary Norm Van Brocklin, who’d struggled to mold the Vikings into consistent competitors in his six seasons with the team.
Instead of going with a more traditional choice, the Vikings turned to Harry “Bud” Grant, a well respected coach from the CFL who had four Grey Cup victories to his credit, but nobody knew what to expect when he arrived in the NFL.
Grant only went on to become the most successful coach in Vikings history, one of the greatest in the NFL, and a true Hall of Famer. He presided over all four of the team’s Super Bowl appearances, and was the mastermind of a team that dominated the NFL landscape between 1969 and 1977.
Grant’s legacy with the team extends even today, where he serves as a team consultant at Winter Park.
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