Written by: Tom West, Vikings Public Relations
When the Vikings and the Indianapolis Colts kickoff on Sunday, it will makr the first time the Vikings opened a season against a pair of AFC clubs since 1998, when they started at Buffalo and vs. New England en route to an 11-5 mark under Jerry Burns in his third season at the helm.
The Vikings have not played a regular season game at Lucas Oil Stadium, but Vikings players are familiar with the facility, having kicked off the 2009 preseason in the building. The Vikings have not won on the road against the Colts - neither Baltimore nor Indianapolis- and have an 0-10 mark in those games. The Baltimore Colts hosted the Vikings in the team’s first-ever playoff game in the Western Conference Championship Game at Memorial Stadium on 12/22/68. The game marked the culmination of Bud Grant’s second season as head coach and completed his turnaround job on the squad from a 3-8-3 outfit in his first season in 1967 to an 8-6 record and the NFL Central title. The ’68 team also started a remarkable run for the Vikings that resulted in 10 playoff appearances in 11 seasons from 1968-78, four Super Bowl appearances and the ascension of the Vikings to legendary status among franchises of the day.
When the Vikings expansion team entered the NFL fray the club was a member of the Western Conference along with Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Baltimore. The Colts and Vikings squared off twice a season from 1961-66. In 1971 the Colts visited Minnesota and dropped a 10-3 game, the last time the teams faced each other until 1982 in the freshly-minted Metrodome. In 2000 and 2004 the Vikings played at the RCA Dome and this weekend will be the debut in a game that counts inside the state-of-the-art Lucas Oil Field.
Players know the field from the annual scouting combine and many have launched their NFL careers in Indy with their performances on the field and in the meeting room during the annual scouting pilgrimage.
Kicking Into High Gear
In Vikings history, rookie kickers have not made a big splash. The team record for most field goals by a rookie is a humble nine by Mike Mercer in the inaugural 1961 season - a mark that Walsh may pass by the time the leaves have turned.
As impressive as Walsh’s calm and execution were, his battery-mates deserve recognition as well.
Many Happy Returns
Only three Vikings players have had multiple punt and kick return touchdowns in club history - and two of the three will be on the field Sunday at Indy.