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Throwin’ it Back to ’98: Vikings Ride Unusual Game to Season’s 13th Win

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

Minnesota went 15-1 during the 1998 regular season, in which it 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.

We’ll continue this series with Minnesota’s Week 15 contest against Baltimore. The Vikings didn’t get particularly flashy on offense, but they were effective and consistently put points on the board. Gary Anderson made six field goals for Minnesota, including three from farther than 40-plus yards.

The game was certainly a quirky one, featuring six committed turnovers – five by the Ravens – and three kickoff returns for touchdowns.

The fledgling Ravens, who had joined the NFL as an expansion team just three years prior, struggled offensively and tried to rely on a sound defense to keep them in the game. The rolling Vikings were too much to overcome, however, and defeated the AFC team to improve to 13-1.

Click here for the first recap in this series (Week 1 vs. Tampa Bay).

Click here for the second recap in this series (Week 2 at St. Louis).

Click here for the third recap in this series (Week 3 vs. Detroit).

Click here for the fourth recap in this series (Week 4 at Chicago).

Click here for the fifth recap in this series (Week 5 at Green Bay).

Click here for the sixth recap in this series (bye week).

Click here for the seventh recap in this series (Week 7 vs. Washington).

Click here for the eighth recap in this series (Week 8 at Detroit).

Click here for the ninth recap in this series (Week 9 at Tampa Bay).

Click here for the 10th recap in this series (Week 10 vs. New Orleans).

Click here for the 11th recap in this series (Week 11 vs. Cincinnati).

Click here for the 12th recap in this series (Week 12 vs. Green Bay).

Click here for the 13th recap in this series (Week 13 at Dallas).

Click here for the 14th recap in this series (Week 14 vs. Chicago).

Vikings 38, Ravens 28

Weather: Mostly cloudy, few showers into evening | Temp: 46 degrees Fahrenheit

Paid Attendance: 69,074 | Time of game: 3:15 p.m. (CT)

MIN 12 13 10 3 | 38

BAL 14 0 0 14 | 28

The Vikings weren’t necessarily slow, but they certainly were steady, and they won the race over the Ravens in Week 15.

Baltimore’s defense allowed Minnesota to drive down the field on its first drive to the Ravens 24-yard line, but from there managed to stall the Vikings offense. Quarterback Randall Cunningham threw a pair of incompletions on first and third down, and on second down, Leroy Hoard caught a pass for no gain.

Vikings kicker Gary Anderson stepped in and made a field goal from 43 yards out, his first of six on the day.

Minnesota’s early lead didn’t last long, however, when Baltimore’s Corey Harris returned the kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown.

The Vikings punted on their next drive. On the Ravens first offensive play of the game, quarterback Jim Harbaugh handed off to running back Priest Holmes, who was tackled by Robert Griffith. The safety forced a fumble by Holmes and recovered the ball at the Baltimore 28.

The Ravens once again didn’t allow the Vikings into the end zone, instead forcing another Anderson field goal.

Then, things got a little crazy.

On Berger’s second kickoff of the day, the Ravens again returned it for a score – this time, receiver Patrick Johnson ran it back 97 yards.

Baltimore kicked off with a 14-6 lead and, you guessed it, Vikings return specialist David Palmer rumbled it back 88 yards for a touchdown. The play was followed by an unsuccessful 2-point conversion attempt, and the Vikings trailed 14-12. Palmer’s return set a then-NFL record for the most combined kick returns for touchdowns by two teams in a game.

The Ravens finally got the ball on offense but made it just three plays before Griffith forced another fumble, which was recovered by Jimmy Hitchcock.

Again, the Baltimore defense clamped down and forced the Vikings to settle for a 45-yard field goal by Anderson to take a 15-14 lead.

This time around, Vikings linebacker Kivuusama Mays forced and recovered a fumble by Harris during the ensuing kickoff. The Vikings took over on offense at the Ravens 17, and Cunningham connected with Moss for a 17-yard touchdown that extended their lead to 22-14.

The Ravens attempted to get something going on offense, to no avail. Quarterback Jim Harbaugh committed the team’s third fumble of the contest, and it was recovered by Vikings linebacker Dixon Edwards. The Vikings methodically moved down the field, and Anderson knocked through a 24-yarder.

Baltimore’s next two series ended in punts, as did one by Minnesota before halftime.

The Ravens received the ball to start the third quarter, but the hits kept coming. Holmes fumbled for the second time, and Vikings linebacker Ed McDaniel recovered on the Ravens 27.

Cue a stand by the Ravens defense, and cue another field goal by Anderson.

Baltimore’s offense took the field, and Harbaugh was intercepted by Vikings cornerback Corey Fuller, who returned the ball 10 yards to the Ravens 28.

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Five plays later, Cunningham connected with Cris Carter for Minnesota’s second touchdown of the day.

Down 35-14, the Ravens finally strung together a drive, getting all the way to the Vikings 3-yard line before getting stuck. On third-and-goal from the 3, Harbaugh threw an incompletion. Baltimore had no choice but to go on fourth-and-3, and another incompletion resulted in a turnover on downs.

On the Vikings final drive of the third quarter, Cunningham threw a deep pass for Moss but was picked off by Ravens cornerback Duane Starks. The turnover led to Baltimore’s third touchdown – and first on offense, a 42-yard reception by Floyd Turner.

The Vikings followed by burning nine-plus minutes off the clock and adding a final 20-yard field goal by Anderson to go up 38-20.

The Ravens gave a valiant – albeit likely futile – effort on their next drive, picking up three plays of 16 yards or more and a roughing the passer penalty on Duane Clemons that moved the sticks an additional 15 yards.

With just over 2 minutes remaining, Homes scored a 2-yard rushing touchdown, and Harbaugh connected with Turner for a successful 2-point conversion.

It was too little, too late, however, and the Vikings were able to run four plays before lining up in the victory formation and moving to 13-1 on the season.

Headline: Gift wrapped (Star Tribune | Dec. 14, 1998)

Quotables:

“It was the most exciting 20 minutes of my coaching career.”

– Vikings Special Teams Coordinator Gary Zauner after three kickoff-return scores in the first quarter

“I’m sitting here with 420 yards and 38 points, and you still don’t feel like we played real sharp. We didn’t have that crispness. We just didn’t have our usual execution. But we still scored 38 points, which tells you how high we’ve set the bar.”

– Vikings Offensive Coordinator Brian Billick

Play of the Game:

It’s difficult to highlight one play in a game that was, truth be told, a little sloppy by both teams. But Griffith’s second forced fumble of the day likely deflated the Ravens a bit and allowed the Vikings to move in and take the lead on the following drive.

Baltimore could have ridden momentum from back-to-back kickoff returns for touchdowns but instead continued to do self-harm that Minnesota capitalized on for the win.

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