The Vikings embark on a rare trip to Baltimore this weekend for a matchup with the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens, marking only the 5th purple-on-purple meeting in the history of the club and the 4th game of the series played in Baltimore- Charm City.
The Vikings have a history with the city though, having traveled to the venerable old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore for the 1st playoff game in team history, the 1968 Western Conference Championship against the Colts. From the Vikings inception in 1961 they were members of the Western Conference of the NFL with Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Vikings played a pair of regular season games against the Colts each year from 1961-66 and played the Colts once each season in 1967 and ’68, making both a regular season and playoff trip to Baltimore in 1968, losing both.
The Ravens came on the scene in 1996 following the Cleveland Browns departure from their host city and move to Baltimore. The Vikings didn’t play the club until 1998 and the game was a topsy-turvy affair that gave the ’98 Vikings offensive juggernaut trouble. The foundation of the vaunted Ravens defense was rounding into shape for the ’98 matchup and the rosters featured a who’s who of talent of the era- including 5 current Hall of Famers (Cris Carter, Randall McDaniel, John Randle, Rod Woodson and Jonathan Ogden) and a few other virtual locks (Randy Moss and Ray Lewis).
The 1998 game was a special teams dream, or nightmare, depending on how you look at it. Gary Anderson connected on FGs of 43, 31, 45, 24, 46 and 20 yards in the game to fall just 1 shy of the team record for FGs made in a game. The first 3 TDs of the game were scored on kickoff returns and all happened in the 1st quarter. The Vikings opened the scoring in the game with a 43-yard Anderson FG and kicked off to the Ravens, who promptly returned the kick 95 yards for a TD by Patrick Johnson. The Vikings drove down for another Anderson FG, this one from 31 yards out and kicked off again. This time to be returned 97 yards by Corey Harris for a TD with 3:39 left in the 1st quarter. Not to be outdone, David Palmer took the ensuing kickoff and returned is 7 seconds later for an 88-yard KO return TD of his own. The TDs were the only of their careers for Johnson and Harris and marked the 3rd and final return TD of his career for Palmer, 2 on punts and 1 on the kickoff. Palmer held the Vikings career record with the 3 combined TDs for a career until Percy Harvin came along and now
Randall Cunningham dropped back 55 times in the game and threw for 345 yards, all without having a 100-yard receiver. Matthew Hatchette led the team with 95 yards on 6 catches while Moss chipped in 89 on 6 and Carter had 85 on 11 with both reeling in a TD. The Vikings defense was held without a sack as wily veteran Jim Harbaugh engineered the Ravens offense. It’s unlikely that Harbaugh could have predicted that 14 years later he would be head coach of the 49ers, playing against his old club and coaching against his older brother in Super Bowl XLVII. Five weeks after the game, Vikings offensive coordinator Brian Billick became the 2nd head coach in Ravens history.
In 2001, the Vikings-Ravens game scheduled for mid-September was postponed by the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks and postponed to the end of the season when an 18th week was added to the season and the clubs met in a Monday Night affair on January 7, 2002. The game featured interim head coach Mike Tice coaching his 1st game after taking the reins of the club and pitted Tice against Billick, the former offensive line coach against the offensive coordinator. The game wrapped up a tumultuous 2001 season and was also the final game for future Hall of Famer Cris Carter as a Viking.
When the Ravens came calling in 2009 they came to town with a new center, free agent pickup Matt Birk, who after 11 years with the Vikings had moved on to Baltimore, where he would play 2009-12, going out in style as Super Bowl XLVII champions to conclude his career. In Birk’s first game back in his home town there was an even more unlikely free agent involved in the game- QB Brett Favre was leading the Vikings on an impressive early-season run. The Baltimore would be the 6th straight win for the Vikings as they opened the season and went on to go 12-4 in the regular season before advancing to the NFC title game. This Ravens game on October 18 in the Dome came down to the wire as another former Viking, K Steve Hauschka, pulled the potential game-winning 44-yard FG wide left as time expired and the Vikings held on for a 33-31 victory.
Will this weekend’s game come down to a FG? Feature a series of kick-return TDs? Be ground-pounding ball control affair? Right now we only know it’s going to be cold and wet.