Vikings vs 49ers: 1987 NFC Divisonal Playoff Game

Throwback Thursday

Photo: Wade Wilson
Wade Wilson. Photo courtesy Minnesota Vikings

Déjà Vu All Over Again

The NFL teams completed only 15 games during the 1987 regular season due to a player’s strike. Week Three was cancelled and the following three weeks were played by team rosters filled approximately with 85% replacement players

The Vikings started off the season with two wins but then lost all three games with replacement players. The team ended December with a 1-3 record but snuck into the playoffs via the last Wild Card spot on the “strength” of a mediocre 8-7 season. 

The Vikings surprised everyone by beating the heavily-favored New Orleans Saints 44-10 at the Superdome to advance to the NFC Divisional playoffs against the heavily-favored San Francisco 49ers

Sound familiar?

The 49ers Talent

The 49ers were in the midst of their “three-peat” dynasty led by Hall of Famers Joe Montana, Roger Craig, Jerry Rice, and Charles Haley and Ronnie Lott on the defensive side. 

The 49ers coaching staff was led by legendary head coach Bill Walsh and assistants George Seifert, Ray Rhodes, Mike Holmgren, Sherman Lewis, and receivers coach Dennis Green.

The Vikings Talent

Though massive underdogs, the Vikings had plenty of talent that their record did not reflect.

The roster included quarterbacks Tommy Kramer, Wade Wilson and rookie Rich Gannon; running back Darrin Nelson; receivers Leo Lewis, Hassan Jones and Anthony Carter; tight end Steve Jordan; and lineman Tim Irwin and Hall of Famer Gary Zimmerman

The Vikings defense was formidable.

The defensive line was anchored by Hall of Famer Chris Doleman and tackles Keith Millard and rookie Henry Thomas. Scott Studwell manned the middle linebacker position; the cornerbacks included Issiac Holt, Carl Lee and rookie Reggie Rutland; Joey Browner was the strong safety. 

They were well-coached too.

Led by head coach and prolific swearer, Jerry Burns, his staff included defensive coordinator Floyd Peters, defensive line coach Paul Wiggin, linebackers coach Monte Kiffin, and secondary coach Pete Carroll.

The Context

I distinctly remember watching this game. 

The state of Minnesota was still on a high from the Twins World Series championship, ending the long drought of professional sports championships that had eluded the state since the last Minneapolis Lakers championship in 1954. 

With the Vikings unexpectedly dominating the favored New Orleans Saints, there was a lot of hope in the air. 

I watched the game with a buddy at a Ground Round restaurant in Columbia Heights. Ground Round restaurants served each table baskets of peanuts, and patrons would, as they ate their nuts, throw the shells on the floor. 

It was kind of a fun gimmick but definitely not a place for people with peanut allergies!

This Ground Round was our sports bar before the advent of 70” high-def flat screens. 

We watched, drank, ate peanuts, and delighted to the action throughout the game. 

Anthony Carter completely took over the contest, gaining 278 combined yards on receptions (10 for 227 yards), one rush for 30 yards, and two punt returns for 21 yards. For all that, he did not score.

The Vikings defense limited the great Joe Montana to 109 yards with one interception, four sacks, and a 42 quarterback rating. Jerry Rice had three catches for 48 yards and Roger Craig was stuffed for 17 yards rushing. 

It could happen again! And this time, we won’t have Washington to keep us from the Super Bowl.

Vikings Defeat The 49ers