As part of the #NFL100 campaign celebrating the league’s centennial season, NFL Network on Fridays has been rolling out new episodes of its 100 Greatest content series.
This week’s segments break down the first grouping of the Greatest Teams in NFL history, including a pair of monumental Vikings campaigns.
The series debuted in Week 2 and will run through Week 11 with two, one-hour episodes airing back-to-back each Friday night. Five categories are covered in the series: Plays (Sept. 13 & Sept. 20), Games (Sept. 27 & Oct. 4), Characters (Oct. 11 & Oct. 18), Game-Changers (Oct. 25 & Nov. 1) and Teams (Nov. 8 & Nov. 15).
The NFL and the Associated Press (AP) came together to select the 100 greatest in the five categories, comprising an 80-person blue-ribbon panel. In addition to the rankings, NFL Films conducted more than 400 interviews with celebrities, current NFL stars and Legends.
83. 1969 Vikings
Minnesota was the last in the league to kick off its training camp, but it finished the season at the top of the league.
Some of Minnesota’s franchise-record 12 consecutive wins were blowouts, including a record-tying, seven-passing-touchdown performance by quarterback Joe Kapp, whose mettle was more like a linebacker. Kapp had studied film all offseason and was ready to take advantage of Baltimore’s blitz that had helped the Colts defeat the Vikings in the previous postseason.
Other games featured some of the most dominating performances by a defense in NFL history.
The Vikings defensive line featured Jim Marshall, Carl Eller, Gary Larsen and Alan Page, forming the formidable front four that became known nationally as the Purple People Eaters. They were the first and only starting defensive line to each earn selections to the same Pro Bowl.
NFL Network interviewed Eller, who called the unit “extraordinary” – and rightly so.
“We got the ball quite frequently and [held teams] to a few points,” Eller said.
A native of Edina, Minnesota, former Broncos linebacker Karl Mecklenberg watched the Vikings 1969 season as a 9-year-old.
“It was the era of the Purple People Eaters. They just struck fear into everybody’s hearts,” Mecklenberg said. “If you got into a passing situation, you were in huge trouble.”
Eller especially believes that the season belongs in the list of 100 Greatest because of Minnesota’s defeat of Cleveland to win the NFL Championship and advancement to Super Bowl IV.
“We are still the NFL Champs,” asserted Eller, who reminded that 1969 was the final year before the AFL-NFL merger. “We won that game against that game against the Browns … so we are the NFL Champs.”
38. 1998 Vikings
Also included on this week’s list of 100 Greatest is the 1998 Vikings team.
Minnesota that year became the third NFL team to finish a 16-game season 15-1 by putting up one of the most dynamic offenses the NFL has ever seen.
The Vikings led the league with 556 points, which was an NFL record at the time. They lit up the scoreboard early and often as they topped 30 or more points in 11 regular-season games and surpassed the 40-point mark four times.
Minnesota’s offense featured a pair of 1,000-yard receivers with double-digit touchdowns (Randy Moss and Cris Carter), 1,000-yard rusher in Robert Smith and a quarterback in Randall Cunningham who set a career high with 34 touchdown passes.
Former Vikings Offensive Coordinator Brian Billick held his role in Minnesota from 1994-98.
“That team was a very special team, just so laden with talent,” said Billick, who the following season was hired as the Ravens head coach. “You had Hall of Famers on it – Cris Carter, Randy Moss.”
Added Billick: “We had an answer offensively for whatever you wanted to do defensively.”
The Vikings rolled to an NFC Central championship, winning the division by four games and earning a first-round bye in the postseason as the NFC’s top seed. They defeated the Cardinals in the Divisional Round of the playoffs but fell to the Falcons in the NFC Championship game.