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Lunchbreak: 2019 Vikings Path to NFC Championship Mirrors 1987 Route

There's no denying it – the Vikings have a tough path ahead of them.

Minnesota is the No. 6 seed in the NFC Playoffs, meaning three road games stand between the Vikings and the Super Bowl.

In order to reach the NFC Championship, Minnesota would need to win at New Orleans and then at San Francisco. It's a tall order, to be sure. But as Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune pointed out, it's been done before.

Reusse reflected on the 1987 Vikings, who defeated those teams – in that order – to play Washington in the conference championship game, which Minnesota ended up losing 17-10. He wrote:

Led by quarterback Bobby Hebert, as Cajun as his high school teammate Ed Orgeron, the '87 Saints closed the regular season with a nine-game winning streak. They were in the Wild Card game because the No. 1-seeded 49ers, with Joe Montana at quarterback and a 13-2 record, had finished one game ahead of New Orleans to win the NFC West.

The "Who Dat?" crowd's reaction was "Who cares?" Their Saints, finally, were ready to take on the world.

Reusse remembered that the Vikings had been unable to clinch during the final month of the regular season and relied on help from other teams to get a seat at the postseason table. Then-Head Coach Jerry Burns was questioned by a fellow Star Tribune reporter about his team's "lack of a 'killer instinct.' "

Not many, including the media, believed in Minnesota's ability to make it past the first round of the playoffs.

What we all soon came to agree on was Burnsie's outfit indeed had a killer instinct. Anthony Carter triggered a 44-10 rout of the Saints with an 84-yard punt return, Wade Wilson replaced Tommy Kramer early on and delivered a Hail Mary TD pass to Hassan Jones at the end of the first half and a fierce pass rush drove Hebert from the game.

A week later, the Vikings went to San Francisco and did the same to Montana. Yes, on Jan. 9, 1988, the gang of Keith Millard, Chris Doleman and Hardware Hank Thomas, of Joey Browner, Carl Lee and Jesse Solomon, became the first defense to get Montana hooked from a game for a non-injury reason.

The final was 36-24. Carter's 10 catches for 227 yards gave Anthony the most explosive two-game stretch in the postseason we have ever seen from the Purple. And the Vikings of January 1988 remain only team in franchise history with two playoff road wins.

Reusse also compared the 1987 roster to the 2019 Vikings and opined which position groups were the strongest. Check that column out here.

Boone makes PFF's Week 17 'Team of the Week'

Vikings running back Mike Boone led a squad of mostly reserves with a big outing against Chicago on Sunday.

Boone filled in for Dalvin Cook – who said Monday he'll be "good to go" for the playoffs – and rookie back Alexander Mattison. In response to his performance, analytics site Pro Football Focus included Boone on the Week 17 "PFF Team of the Week."

PFF wrote:

With Dalvin Cook out, Boone stepped up to the plate and got the job done in Week 17 for the Vikings run game. In addition to being the highest-graded back of the week, Boone was also the only one to have multiple rushes of 40 or more yards.

Boone joined an offense that also included 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo, Buccaneers WR Breshad Perriman, 49ers WR Deebo Samuel, Titans WR A.J. Brown and 49ers TE George Kittle.

On the defensive side of the ball, PFF highlighted a pair of Saints players whom the Vikings will face in Sunday's Wild Card game: LB A.J. Klein and CB Janoris Jenkins.

Saints linebacker Klein had the best performance of his seven-year career Sunday in Carolina, recording a 94.3 overall grade. While in coverage, Klein allowed just eight yards on his 36 coverage snaps and had a pick-six. This one was even more special for Klein since the first four seasons of his NFL career were with the Panthers.

[…]

Jenkins was picked up by New Orleans after being waived by the Giants a few weeks ago and was great in his first start in Week 17. Jenkins had an 89.4 overall grade on the day and didn't allow a play that resulted in a gain of more than 13 yards, while grabbing an interception and pass breakup in coverage.

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