The Minnesota Vikings are more than four decades removed from their last trip to the Super Bowl, despite going to the playoffs 21 times since playing in Super Bowl 11 in January 1977. On Sunday, the Vikings added a 38-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles to their playoff woes — Minnesota’s sixth loss in the NFC Championship over that 42-season span.
This team has a lengthy history of postseason failures. So much so that Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was asked at the beginning of January whether the team is cursed.
“There is no damn curse,” Zimmer said, via the Star Tribune.
And it seemed he was right after the team’s win against the Saints in the Divisional Round.
If it followed the usual script, Kai Forbath would’ve missed the 53-yard field goal that gave the Vikings a lead with less than two minutes remaining against the Saints. And Case Keenum definitely wouldn’t have saved the day by pulling off the “Minneapolis Miracle” with a desperation heave to Stefon Diggs that went 61 yards for a game-winning touchdown.
The Vikings finally won the dramatic game that they never win. And then promptly got blown out a week later in what many thought would be an easier game.
The Vikings usually lose in the playoffs with a painful collapse
Minnesota fans are familiar with postseason agony. But unlike the 31-point loss to the Eagles, the Vikings usually lose by a razor-thin margin.
In the past 30 years, they’ve shown a knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory:
Jan. 10, 2016
The Vikings had reason to be optimistic about their last trip to the postseason after pulling off a 20-13 victory in Week 17 over the Packers that earned them the NFC North title.
But neither the Vikings nor Seahawks could score much on a brutally cold day in Minnesota in the Wild Card Game. In the final seconds, Blair Walsh had a chance to give the Vikings the win, but he missed a 27-yard chip shot that gave the Seahawks a 10-9 victory.
Jan. 24, 2010
Brett Favre led the Vikings to a 12-4 season and the NFC Championship against the Saints. With less than a minute remaining and the teams locked in a 28-28 tie, the 40-year-quarterback had Minnesota in Saints territory, ready to kick a game-winning field goal.
But Favre made the awful decision to throw a pass across his body to the middle of the field that was intercepted by Tracy Porter to force overtime. New Orleans won the coin toss, drove the field, and kicked a game-winning field goal.
Jan. 17, 1999
The Vikings were the best team in the 1998 regular season and took a 15-1 record into the postseason. The Cardinals proved to be no match in the Divisional Round and Minnesota had a 24-17 lead over the Falcons in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship.
With just over two minutes remaining, Vikings kicker Gary Anderson had the chance to put the nail in Atlanta’s coffin with a 38-yard field goal. Anderson hadn’t missed a kick all year, going a perfect 35-of-35 on field goals in the regular season. Then he missed the field goal in the NFC Championship, and the Falcons scored a touchdown to force overtime.
Atlanta won with a 38-yard field goal of its own from Morten Andersen.
Jan. 17, 1988
After scoring 80 points in the first two playoff games, the Vikings managed just 10 against Washington in the NFC Championship. With less than a minute left in the game, Minnesota had a chance to tie, but a pass to running back Darrin Nelson bounced off his arms at the goal line, preserving a 17-10 win for Washington.
The dramatic win over the Saints may have played against the Vikings
There’s a danger that comes with hitting an emotional high on the football field. It can make focusing on the next game difficult.
Zimmer brushed off concerns earlier in the week that the Vikings would have difficulty grounding themselves after the miraculous win over the Saints:
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer on refocusing his team after emotional win Sun. “Just watch tape of the #Eagles. That’ll make you focus real quick.”— Martin Frank (@Mfranknfl) January 17, 2018
But it appeared as though Minnesota was wholly unprepared for a game against the Eagles. The Vikings finished the regular season with the No. 1 defense in the NFL but couldn’t do much to stop Nick Foles.
Foles, a backup who took over for the Eagles when Carson Wentz suffered a season-ending knee injury, was able to lead Philadelphia to only 15 points in a win against the Falcons. But against the Vikings, he ripped apart the secondary for 352 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Keenum, who finished the 2017 regular season with 22 touchdowns and just seven interceptions, had much less success against the Eagles. He ended the day with one touchdown and two interceptions, including a pick-six.
The Vikings were outgained 456 yards to 333 and had three turnovers, while the Eagles had none. There wasn’t one phase of the game the Eagles didn’t dominate:
Zimmer: "Honestly they just played a lot better than we did, that's the bottom line"— Dave Schwartz (@Dave_Schwartz) January 22, 2018
The Vikings seemingly conquered so many of the franchise’s demons with the win over the Saints. After going 13-3 in the regular season, Minnesota was just a win away from being the first team to ever play a Super Bowl in its home stadium.
But the Vikings’ painful history of playoff failures continued Sunday, and the dramatics of the win over New Orleans only set them up for another postseason disappointment — this time a resounding defeat a week later. The end result is still the same: Minnesota will have to wait for another season to take a shot at finally getting back to the Super Bowl.