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LAKE FOREST – There’s no other way to look at this Wild Card playoff game if you’re on the side of the Bears.

They are the underdog, and it’s easy to understand why.

The seventh-seeded Bears snuck Stitched Minnesota Vikings Jerseys into the playoffs at 8-8, doing so only after a Cardinals’ loss to the Rams. They’re facing a Saints team that’s full of veteran players and will have reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas back in the fold.

On top of that, the Bears will be missing starters Roquan Smith, Jaylon Johnson, and Darnell Mooney, making their task of pulling Cheap Amp Lee Jersey off the upset even harder.

But if you are looking for hope for the Bears, perhaps there is one thing that might be able to make you feel better as the Bears enter the Superdome as a major underdog. The team has been in a position similar to this, and actually came out with a victory.

On January 1. 1995, the Wild Card Bears traveled to NFC Central champion Minnesota for their first playoff game in three years. Dave Wannstedt’s Cheap Cris Carter Jersey team was a bit up-and-down just like the 2020 squad, as they lost three of their last four games to sneak into the playoffs.

In fact, they lost to the Patriots in the final game of the season when they could have clinched a playoff spot. Yet they were saved when the Giants lost to the Cowboys, and were the third and final Wild Card team in the NFC.

Incredibly, the other two were division rivals Green Bay and Detroit, but it was the Bears that got the sixth seed and the trip to the Metrodome.

It would be a rematch of a memorable Thursday night game between the teams on December 1st of that year. The Bears missed Cheap Warren Moon Jersey
a chance to win in overtime when Kevin Butler missed a field goal, and the Vikings got the victory soon after when Warren Moon hit Cris Carter for a 65-yard touchdown.

This New Year’s Day game figured to be another Minnesota victory, and it seemed that way when the Bears turned the ball on each of their first two possessions. But the Vikings couldn’t built a big lead, and slowly the underdog visitors started to build a lead.

Lewis Tillman’s one-yard run and Steve Walsh’s pass to tight end Keith Jennings gave the Bears a lead they’d never give up. Rookie Raymont Harris extended the lead to 12 with a touchdown run early in the third that was part of his 67-yard rushing day.

After that, the Bears had an answer for every score the Vikings had as they sealed an upset. A Minnesota field goal in the third quarter was followed by a 21-yard touchdown pass from Walsh to Jeff Graham. The Bears responded to a Moon fourth quarter touchdown to Amp Lee with a defensive score, as Kevin Miniefield picked up a fumble and returned it 48-yards for a score.

Bears 35 Vikings 18. One of the team’s biggest upsets in their history came very unexpectedly from a team that backed in the playoffs.

The run would end the next week as the Bears were crushed by the eventual champion 49ers in San Francisco 44-15. But that New Year’s moment in the Metrodome is a reminder to skeptical Bears’ fans on Sunday that anything’s possible in the playoffs.

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The 1998 Vikings had a plus-260 point differential, which still ranks as the seventh-best in NFL history. The six teams in front of them all reached the championship game, whether it was the Super Bowl or the equivalent AFL or Wholesale Minnesota Vikings Jerseys NFL title game. That 1998 Vikings season really was the cruelest tease of all.

The 1998 Vikings captured Cheap Andrew Glover Jersey something unusually special. Minnesota went 15-1 and set what was then a league record for points Cheap Brad Johnson Jersey scored in the regular season (556). The Vikes were primed to waltz into Super Bowl XXXIII; they were 11-point favorites in the NFC Championship Game at home against the Atlanta Falcons, who had gone 14-2. And then, owing to a variety Cheap Cris Carter Jersey of ill-timed mistakes and missed opportunities, the Vikes blew a 13-point lead, and it was all over.

Minnesota had entered that season with reasons for optimism. It was already a well-balanced team that had won a Cheap Jeff Christy Jersey playoff game the Cheap Randall Cunningham Jersey season before. But on draft day, the Vikings landed wideout Randy Moss with the 21st overall pick. Moss would become a Hall of Famer, but the breadth of his talent was immediately evident upon his arrival.

“Moss’ performances that spring and summer,” Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr wrote two years ago, “became something like the origin scenes in a superhero comic book.”

At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Moss had great size, but he was also gifted with extraordinary speed and body control. Orr’s piece touches on how many of his teammates were in awe of his ability right away, with quarterback Brad Johnson describing more than once how it was pretty much impossible to overthrow him. The Vikes Cheap Randy Moss Jersey already had another future Hall of Fame receiver in Cris Carter. They would quickly discover just how lethal all that speed and skill could be. As offensive coordinator (and future Baltimore Ravens head coach) Brian Billick told Orr:

“We almost got to the point where we stopped looking at film. You try and prepare the players and say, ‘OK, this is what teams usually did, they’re single high or three deep’ or whatever. So we’d come into the game and it would be totally different. They figured they’d have to try something. So we’d just get into the game and adjust to whatever they were doing. Looking at all that film was a waste of time.”

Moss and Cunningham celebrate after one of their 15 touchdown pass connections in 1998. Star Tribune / Getty Images
Moss debuted by catching touchdown passes covering 48 and 31 yards in a 31-7 rout of the Buccaneers. Johnson broke his ankle the following week, and his replacement was Randall Cunningham, the thrilling former dual-threat Philadelphia Eagles star who was out of the league in 1996 and came back to join the Vikings a year later. By 1998, Cunningham was 35. With so many weapons at his disposal – including Cheap Robert Smith Jersey running back Robert Smith and tight ends Andrew Glover and Matthew Hatchette – Cunningham immediately settled in to become the kind of pocket passer his fiercest critics assumed he never could be. And the Vikings were off.

They won their first seven games – without scoring fewer than 29 points – before finally losing in Week 9 at Tampa Bay. Their big showcase came Thanksgiving Day in Dallas, on national television, when Moss caught TDs of 51 and 56 yards around a 54-yard TD catch for Carter – all in the first quarter. Moss finished the game with three catches for 163 yards … and three touchdowns.

The first two TD catches came on slightly underthrown balls that Moss casually caught on his hip in stride. The third, seen below, showed off his dazzling speed and footwork. He also caught a two-point conversion pass. It almost didn’t seem fair.

FOX Sports / theScore
The Vikings followed that win over the Cowboys by hanging 48 points on the Chicago Bears, 38 on the Baltimore Ravens, and 50 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. They finished as just the third team to win 15 regular-season games; the first two – the 1984 49ers and the 1985 Bears – had won the Super Bowl.

Minnesota’s first playoff game was more of the same: an easy 41-21 takedown of the Arizona Cardinals. The upstart Falcons weren’t given much of a chance when they came to the old Metrodome a week later with a berth in the Super Bowl hanging in the balance. Early on, at least, it looked like the Vikings might glide right past them.

After the Falcons scored a first-possession touchdown, the Vikings stormed back to a 17-7 lead, with Cunningham taking three straight deep shots downfield to Moss. Atlanta was called for back-to-back 15-yard penalties that set the Vikings up at the Falcons’ 19-yard line with a shot to blow the game wide open before halftime. Then, on first down, this happened:

FOX Sports / theScore
It was a rare drop for Moss, who appeared to slow down a bit just before the ball arrived, which forced him to break stride to reach for it. The play seemed insignificant at the time, as the Vikings soon settled for a field goal to extend their lead to 20-7. But it was indicative of the mistakes that doomed Minnesota as the game proceeded.

One observation from rewatching that game: Billick was not afraid to get Moss the ball any way he could, even by using the deception and misdirection that has become much more common in today’s wide-open game. Check out this orbit motion combined with play-action to free up Moss for a swing pass that he turned into a decent gain:

FOX Sports / theScore
Much of what the Vikings did that day involved little pre-snap motion, however, with Cunningham frequently working under center. Additionally, after those three straight early deep shots to Moss, Cunningham largely threw underneath; a graphic shown during the broadcast just before the start of the second half indicated that he had attempted just five first-half passes of 15 yards or more. One was Moss’ end-zone drop.

Late in the first half, Cunningham fumbled after his arm was hit by Falcons defensive end Chuck Smith as he wound up to throw. Atlanta took over at the Vikings’ 14 with 59 seconds left until halftime. The Falcons scored on the next play to make the halftime score 20-14.

The Vikings compiled a 15-play, seven-minute drive into the fourth quarter to extend their lead to 27-17. But Moss had another drop, and center Jeff Christy failed to get a snap up into Cunningham’s hands, resulting in another lost fumble. Still, after a fourth-down stop, the Vikings largely relied on Smith to pound out a drive that ended with the game’s defining gaffe.

Place-kicker Gary Anderson had been perfect all year: 35-for-35 on field goals, 59-for-59 on extra points. But with 2:10 left and a chance to put the Vikings up again by 10, Anderson sailed his kick wide left. The Falcons marched back up the field in eight plays to tie the game with 49 seconds to go.

The Vikings had another opportunity in regulation, but Cunningham misfired on a deep ball to Moss on second down. Dennis Green then elected to take a knee on third down from the Vikings’ own 27 rather than risk a disaster like the one that happened at the end of the first half. The crowd booed lustily. One of the greatest offenses in NFL history was denied its biggest chance by its own head coach.

The Falcons’ Chris Chandler and Eugene Robinson hoist the NFC championship trophy. Matthew Stockman / Allsport / Getty Images
The Vikings got the ball first in OT, and both teams possessed the ball twice before the Falcons won it on a field goal. The heartbroken silence in the Metrodome was obvious on the broadcast; it was apparently worse in the locker room. Smith told Orr there were “NFC Champions” banners and other premature displays all over the place, which only added insult to injury.

The Vikings got back to the playoffs the next two seasons, and even reached the NFC title game again in 2000, only to get throttled by the Giants. But 1998 is the loss that lingers. Unlike the Patriots, who’ve won three championships and reached five Super Bowls since their big 2007 letdown, that 1998 team stands as a symbol of the Vikings’ longstanding history of almost getting it done. They were a unique team at the right time that wowed the football world for an entire season, and then they were gone.

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Justin Jefferson, Cheap Adam Thielen Jersey, and DeVonta Smith in the same receiving corps? It’s a longshot, but that’s what NFL.com draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah has happening in his latest 2021 mock. Smith falls to the Vikings at 14, and perhaps against Mike Zimmer’s wishes, Minnesota snatches up an elite wideout from the SEC for the second straight year.

Is it unlikely? Very much so. But is it fun to imagine and discuss? You bet it is.

After winning the Heisman trophy with an utterly ridiculous 2020 season (1,862 yards and 24 total TDs in 13 games), Smith is firmly in the discussion to be the first wide receiver drafted in April. With his otherworldly separation and route-running abilities, he has the potential to be a game-breaker in the NFL. Smith could be an option as early as No. 3 overall to the Dolphins, if they don’t trade that pick.

But there is also a legitimate chance that Smith falls because of concerns about his size. He was listed at 6’1″, 175 pounds at Alabama, and that thin frame is going to scare some evaluators in the same way that Cheap Cameron Dantzler Jersey frame scared people last year. Personally, I think it’s a classic case of the NFL overthinking things, because Smith’s weight (which he’ll add to, at least slightly) doesn’t mean much when he’s sprinting past defensive backs or making acrobatic catches above them. But it’s a real apprehension that some scouts have.

In Jeremiah’s mock, LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase is the first receiver off the board, going to Miami at No. 3. That makes sense to me; Chase is a spectacular all-around receiver who was better than Jefferson on the Tigers’ 2019 national championship team. The Eagles pass on a WR at 6, taking Florida TE/athlete/superhuman Kyle Pitts instead. The Lions also pass on a receiver, going with Micah Parsons. Those two teams are commonly linked to the top trio of receivers (Smith, Chase, and Smith’s teammate Jaylen Waddle). The Giants take Gregory Rousseau instead of a wideout at 11, and suddenly both Bama receivers are falling.

After the 49ers take Rashawn Slater, the Chargers snap up Waddle with the 13th pick. That leaves the Vikings to take Smith one pick later. Here’s Jeremiah’s explanation:

The Vikings have holes to fill on defense, but they could give Cheap Kirk Cousins Jersey a heck of a trio by adding Smith to a receiving corps that already includes Cheap Justin Jefferson Jersey and Adam Thielen.

I love it. The Vikings can recreate the “Three Deep” receiving corps they had in 1998 and 1999 with Cheap Cris Carter Jersey, Cheap Randy Moss Jersey, and Cheap Jake Reed Jersey. It would be an example of taking the best player available and continuing to invest in the offense. In 1997, both Carter and Reed had 1,000-yard seasons and combined for 19 touchdown receptions. Wide receiver wasn’t a need. But Moss fell to the Vikings at 21, they selected him, and the rest is history.

This situation is a bit different. Both Carter (32) and Reed (30) were veterans at the time the Vikings drafted Moss. Thielen is 30, but Jefferson is still just 21 years old. Smith is actually seven months older than Jefferson. Regardless, it still makes sense. You’d have at least a few years of the best WR trio in the NFL, and if Thielen starts to decline, the two young guns would take the reins for the foreseeable future.

Imagine Smith and his long strides running down bombs from Kirk Cousins. He might be more of a pure deep threat than Jefferson, which is saying a lot. But both players are incredibly well-rounded and versatile receivers, and Thielen should still play at an extremely high level at age 31. Thielen would also be a fantastic mentor for Smith, just like he was for Jefferson last year, and new receivers coach Keenan McCardell is the perfect person to guide two young star wideouts. Smith could potentially be used as a punt returner, too. He would add another dimension to Minnesota’s offense.

Here’s the catch: it’s not very likely at all. Two things would have to happen for the Vikings to land Smith (or Chase or Waddle, for that matter). One of those players would have to fall to 14, which would surprise me with so many receiver-needy teams (MIA, PHI, DET, NYG, and a couple others) in the top 13. And then the Vikings would actually have to pull the trigger. Would Zimmer and Rick Spielman do it, or would they play it safe and draft an OL/DL/DB instead? Of Jeremiah’s next five picks, four would make sense for the Vikings: South Carolina CB Jaycee Horn, USC OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, Michigan EDGE Kwity Paye, and Virginia Tech OT Christian Darrisaw. Perhaps Spielman would use the leverage of the WR on the board to trade down and get back into the second round.

If the Vikings did draft a receiver, they’d have to change their offensive philosophy and personnel groupings to maximize the output of all three players. Instead of remaining one of the league’s most run-heavy teams, with minimal use of 11 personnel (three receivers on the field at once), they’d have to slash their usage of Cheap C.J. Ham Jersey and two tight ends and modernize their attack. And it’s not a question of whether new offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak would do it, it’s a question of whether or not the old-school Zimmer would allow it. He has the ultimate control over how the offense operates, as we saw in 2018 when he fired John DeFilippo for not running the ball enough.