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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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Multiple team goals for the 2020 Minnesota Vikings (6-9) are no longer attainable, but multiple players will enter Sunday’s season finale at Detroit (5-10) with historical marks within their reach.

Here’s a rundown of milestones that players can accomplish on Sunday.

Cheap Dalvin Cook Jersey

Rushing/scrimmage yards

Cook already has recorded the third-most rushing yards in a single season by a Vikings running back, but he could climb the ladder if he duplicates another mammoth day against Detroit.

The fourth-year running back has 1,557, which ranks second in the NFL (Derrick Henry has 1,777). He trails Cheap Adrian Peterson Jersey 1,760 in 2008 by 204 yards.

Think that’s out of reach? Remember, Cook rushed for 206 against the Lions in Week 9 with Peterson watching from the opposing sideline.

Cook also has the second-most scrimmage yards in a single Vikings season (an NFL-leading 1,918) but has no chance of catching Peterson’s whopping 2,314 from 2012 that was fueled by his franchise-record 2,097 rushing yards. He still could post the most scrimmage yards in the NFL in 2020 if he fends off Henry (1,891).

Rushing touchdowns

Cook needs two rushing touchdowns to tie Peterson’s franchise record of 18 in 2009. Cook has four games with two or more rushing touchdowns this season, including Week 9 against Detroit.

Scoring

With 16 rushing touchdowns, one receiving score and three 2-point conversions, Cook has scored a team-best 108 points this season, which ranks second in the NFL among non-kickers. Alvin Kamara’s six scores against Minnesota on Friday vaulted the Saints running back to 126 points this season.

The 108 points by Cook rank 18th in franchise history for a single season, regardless of position, and are the second-most by a Vikings non-kicker. Cheap Chuck Foreman Jersey scored the most by any non-kicker with 132 points in 1975 when he totaled 22 touchdowns (13 rushing, nine receiving).

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Receiving yards

Jefferson already has 79 receptions on the year, topping Cheap Randy Moss Jersey previous rookie record of 69 catches in 1998.

Now the 2020 first-round pick can top Moss’ 1,313 receiving yards from that magical season. Jefferson needs just 47 yards to pass the Hall of Famer that he recently “met” during a virtual chat with prior Vikings NFL/Offensive Rookies of the Year.

Jefferson needs 111 yards to break Anquan Boldin’s NFL record for receiving yards by a rookie. Boldin recorded 1,377 in 2003. (Bill Groman had 1,473 with the Houston Oilers in 1960, but that was in the American Football League’s first season.)

Averaging 84.5 receiving yards per game, Jefferson ranks third among rookies since 1970 (minimum four games) in the category behind Odell Beckham, Jr. (108.8 in 2014) and Boldin (86.1 in 2003). Moss is fourth all-time with 82.1 receiving yards per game as a rookie.

Adam Thielen

Receiving touchdowns

Thielen ranks third in the NFL this season with 14 receiving touchdowns, the fifth-most receiving TDs in a Vikings season. He needs one more to tie Moss for fourth or two for sole possession of fourth place.

He has caught two touchdowns in six career games, including in four this season, but needs his first career hat trick to tie the all-time Vikings mark.

T-1. Cheap Cris Carter Jersey 17 in 1995

T-1. Randy Moss 17 in 1998

T-1. Randy Moss 17 in 2003

4. Randy Moss 15 in 2000

5. Cheap Adam Thielen Jersey 14 in 2020

Receiving yards

Thielen needs 132 receiving yards for the third 1,000-yard season of his career.

Receptions

With eight catches against the Saints, Thielen tied Cheap Sammy White Jersey for eighth in franchise history on the career receptions list (393). He needs eight more catches to pass Cheap Ahmad Rashad Jersey for seventh all-time.

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Passing touchdowns

Cousins has thrown a career-best 32 touchdown passes this season. He needs one more to tie Cheap Warren Moon Jersey (1995), Cheap Daunte Culpepper Jersey (2000) and Cheap Brett Favre Jersey (2009) for third-most in a single Vikings season.

A pair of scores would tie him with Cheap Randall Cunningham Jersey (34 in 1998) for second. Culpepper’s 39 in 2004 are the most in franchise history.

Cousins has thrown two or more touchdowns in 11 games this season and has tossed trifectas in seven of those contests.