Saturday, October 17, 2009

Battle of the Purple, 1998

So, the Vikings play the Ravens tomorrow. Despite both teams having a reputation for defense, and both are doing fairly well defensively, neither has been as stifling as might have been predicted. The Vikings are 14th in the league in yards/game allowed, and 9th in points per game allowed. The Ravens are 10th and 12th in the same categories, respectively. There are certainly caveats in those numbers -- the Vikings have only played one good offensive team (Green Bay) but have also given up a lot of yards and points in garbage time -- but it's safe to say that neither team is at the top of the defensive ranks for fantasy football leagues.

Meanwhile, the Vikings are 3rd in the NFL in scoring and the Ravens 5th. At the start of the season, you might have thought the over/under for the game to be around 30, but I wouldn't be shocked if each team managed 30 points. Even so, we probably won't see anything as crazy as the first meeting between these two teams, a 1998 contest that the Vikings won 38-28.

Ah yes, the 1998 Vikings. We remember them well. And this December Vikings/Ravens contest was a typical game for a team that averaged 34.75 yards per game (surprisingly, just a hair more than the 31.2 this year's team is managing). But the offense sputtered a bit in this game, scoring "just" two touchdowns and getting six field goals from Gary Anderson.

Oh, and then there was that first quarter.

Take a look at the box score. After an Anderson field goal, Baltimore's Corey Harris returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown to put the Ravens up 7-3. The Vikings kicked another field goal on the ensuing drive and kicked off again. This time, it was Patrick Johnson who brought the kickoff back to the house, putting the Ravens up 14-6. At this point, the special teams looked so bad, you might have thought Paul Ferraro was the coach. (It was actually Gary Zauner.) But on the ensuing Baltimore kickoff, Minnesota's David Palmer (no, not the fictional president) took it back 88 yards for a touchdown of his own. One missed two-point conversion later (nice decision, Denny) and the quarter ended 14-12...

...with three kickoff-return touchdowns. I'm going to bet that's a record for a single quarter, if not a game.

The Vikings scored the next 23 points, part of a 29-point unanswered stretch, and the 10-point margin at the final gun belied the fact that this was a very lopsided game. I'm not betting on three kickoff-return touchdowns (or six+ field goals by Ryan Longwell), but a 38-28 score? Yeah, I could buy that.

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