The 1998 Minnesota Vikings are undoubtedly the best team in the history of the franchise.

In 1998, the Minnesota Vikings were coming off a 9-7 season, having lost 22-38 to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Divisional playoffs.

Things didn’t start well for the Vikings. Starting QB Brad Johnson broke his leg during the second game, and 35-year old Randall Cunningham took the helm. Johnson would return in Week 10 only to break his thumb, giving Cunningham the starting job for good.

Cunningham, the 1992 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, played ten seasons in Philadelphia before being out of the NFL in 1996. He signed with the Vikings in 1997.

Cunningham and the Vikings dominated the NFL in 1998 and scored a then-NFL record 556 (34.8 average) thanks in most part to dominant wide receiver play.

Veteran Cris Carter, a former teammate of Cunningham’s in Philadelphia, led the team in receptions in 1998, but it was rookie phenom Randy Moss that gave opposing defensive coordinators nightmares.

Moss, the 1998 Rookie of the Year, led the team with 1313 yards, and a rookie-record 17 touchdowns. The Vikings drafted Moss 22nd overall in the 1998 NFL Draft. Moss, easily the best receiver in the draft, fell due to off-the-field issues.

There were a number of reasons the Vikings were successful during the 1998 campaign:

1.      Head Coach Denny Green developed a high-powered West-Coast style offense and had been building the offense through free agency and the draft for seven seasons.

2.      Offensive Coordinator Brian Billick was considered to be the mastermind behind the offense. One of the innovative techniques Billick used to develop such an effective offense was the use of a computer to generate play calling schemes and game plans.

3.      The tandem or WRs Cris Carter, Randy Moss, and Jake Reed was the deadliest in football.

4.      K Gary Anderson was perfect during the regular season with 35/35 for Field Goals and 59/59 for PAT (he also set a record for most points scored in a season with 164 points)

5.      Randall Cunningham made an impressive comeback after being out of the league in 1996. He joined the Vikings in 1997 and played 6 games that year. In 1998, starting QB Brad Johnson was hurt early in the year and Cunningham took over. He threw for 3704 yards and 34 TDs.

6.      The Vikings defense, led by DT John Randle and LB Ed McDaniel, both Pro Bowlers, had a good year. They only allowed 296 points which was sixth in the league for fewest points allowed; and second in the league in turnover differential (+14).

7.      Injury prone RB Robert Smith was healthy most of the year and played in 14 games. He had 1187 rushing yards and scored 8 TDs (6 rushing and 2 receiving).

8.      The Vikings offensive line featured 3 Pro Bowlers that year: C Jeff Christy, T Todd Stussie, and G Randall McDaniel.

After becoming the third 15-1 team in NFL history, the Vikings beat the Arizona Cardinals 41-21 in the Divisional round before meeting the 14-2 Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game.

Late in the fourth quarter, the Vikings were leading 27-20 and needed a field goal to seal the win. Gary Anderson, who hadn’t missed a field goal in two years, lined up for a 38-yard attempt. He missed wide left.

Atlanta tied the game at 27-27, and won the game in overtime on a 38 yard field goal by Morten Anderson.

The Vikings became the first 15-1 team to miss the Super Bowl.

 

The 1998 Minnesota Vikings are regarded as one of the best teams in NFL History. They were added to Fox Sports’ Missing Rings series, dedicated to the best teams to not win a championship.