NFC Championship Game: Minnesota Vikings vs. Atlanta Falcons
Perhaps the most heartbreaking loss of all Conference Championship Games was the 1998 NFC Championship Game. The Vikings exploded to a 15-1 season, which was only the third such time for the accomplishment, and the previous two teams who had held that record won the Super Bowl. The Falcons, however, had the best season in the history of their franchise as well (14-2).
Chris Chandler played the game of his life, throwing for 340 yards and 3 TDs. Still, the Vikings were in position to take a 10-point lead with 2:07 remaining when kicker Gary Anderson, who did not miss a field goal the entire season, missed a 38-yard attempt. Down by a touchdown, the Falcons drove down the field for the tying score and won the game in overtime. To rub salt into the wounds, Vikings LB Dwayne Rudd nearly intercepted a Chandler pass on the final drive.
How it would have changed the Super Bowl: The Vikings vs. Broncos had the potential to be the best Super Bowl ever, with either team capable of winning. It certainly would have been a better game than the one that actually happened. The Vikings were not a “one-year wonder,” having made the playoffs in five of the previous six seasons.
The arrival of Randy Moss and re-emergence of Randall Cunningham saw the team put it all together. The Falcons, on the other hand, truly came out of nowhere to go 14-2, and the Anderson miss was not the only good fortune the Falcons had come across that postseason. One round earlier in a divisional round matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, Steve Young’s 2 INTs (one on the 3-yard line) drastically changed the game.
By the Super Bowl, all of their good breaks had been used up and Murphy’s Law landed on Atlanta. Super Bowl XXXIII was a letdown of a game when it could have been the most exciting ever.