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Throwin' it Back to '98: Vikings, Moss Debut in Flashy Fashion

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This season, the Vikings are commemorating the 20thanniversary of the 1998 team.

Minnesota went 15-1 during the 1998 regular season, during which they set a then-NFL scoring record with 556 points. Randy Moss came on the scene and caught 17 touchdown passes, the most-ever by a rookie. He combined with Cris Carter and Jake Reed to form "Three Deep."

For each week of the 2018 regular season, we'll throw it back to 1998 and take a look at each of the Vikings 16 games.

Today marks the 20thanniversary of the 1998 season opener against Tampa Bay. This was a division game back then as the teams clashed in the NFC Central at the time.

The Vikings scored early and often in a convincing 31-7 win over the Buccaneers. A rookie wide receiver named Randy Moss made his presence known with four catches for 95 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his NFL debut.

Vikings 31, Buccaneers 7

Weather:None (Played in a dome) | Temp:65 degrees Fahrenheit

Paid Attendance: 62,538 | Time of game: Noon (CT)

TB       0  0 7 0 | 7

MIN    14 7 0 10 | 31

Well, that was one way to start a season.

The Vikings began the 1998 season in flashy fashion by blowing out a division rival and setting the stage for what would be a record-setting performance by the Vikings offense.

Minnesota actually punted on its first possession of the season, but found the end zone quickly after that as quarterback Brad Johnson found Carter for a 1-yard score. Then it was Moss' turn, as the rookie caught a 48-yard touchdown and 31-yard score on back-to-back possessions.

The Vikings led 21-0 at the half as Minnesota's defense stymied Tampa Bay's collection of offensive weapons that included quarterback Trent Dilfer, running back Warrick Dunn and fullback Mike Alstott.

The Buccaneers got on the scoreboard midway through the third quarter but the Vikings responded on the next drive with a 43-yard field goal by Gary Anderson.

Johnson and Carter connected for another touchdown late in the fourth quarter to put the finishing touches on an impressive season-opening victory for Minnesota.

Johnson, who had suffered a serious neck injury in 1997, returned to the field to throw for just 189 yards but tied his career high at the time with four touchdown passes.

Moss had four catches for 95 yards, and Carter added five receptions for 31 yards as both eventual Hall of Fame wide receivers started the season with two touchdown catches apiece. Running back Robert Smith was also productive on the ground, churning out 90 yards on 18 carries.

The Vikings offense tallied 298 total yards in the win, but that ended up being the second-lowest total in the regular season for an offense that would soon strike fear into opposing defenses across the league.

Defensively, Jimmy Hitchcock recorded the first of his seven interceptions on the season. Defensive end Derrick Alexander had a forced fumble, and defensive tackle John Randle had a fumble recovery. Defensive tackle Tony Williams had a sack on the day.

Headline: "A grand opening" (Star Tribune | Sept. 7, 1998)

Quotable

"[Randy] said he was a little nervous and said he couldn't eat. … He said he was playing video games (the morning of the game). I asked him what he was going to eat before the game, he broke out a box of Hot Tamales and a Coke. I was like, 'Damn man, maybe if you eat some food and get some nutrients inside of you, you'll be all right.' That was the first game. Seeing him eat Hot Tamales and drink a Coke for a pregame meal, then go out there against one of the best defenses, it was confirmation that he was the guy."

— Carter to Vikings.com in 2017 on Moss' first NFL game

Play of the game  

The play call was Change Right Speed Right Bomb. It was the first touchdown on Moss' career, and it came in electrifying fashion.

With the Vikings leading 7-0 late in the first quarter, Johnson took the snap and sprinted to his right before pivoting and lofting a deep pass to Moss down the left sideline for a 48-yard touchdown.

With two Tampa Bay defenders nearby, Moss initially tipped the ball to himself inside the 5-yard line before snatching it out of midair as he crossed into the end zone.

Fans went wild as the rookie wide receiver made an immediate impact on the Vikings. For Moss, it was the first of 156 career touchdowns, a total that ranks second all-time in league history.

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