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1998 Minnesota Vikings season

1998 Minnesota Vikings season
Head coach Dennis Green
Home field Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome
Record 15–1
Division place 1st NFC Central
Playoff finish Won NFC Divisional playoff vs. (Cardinals) 41–21
Lost NFC Championship Game vs. (Falcons) 30–27
Pro Bowlers 10
Previous season Next season
< 1997 1999 >

The 1998 Minnesota Vikings was the 38th year of season play for the Minnesota Vikings and the 79th regular season of the National Football League.

The Vikings became only the third team in NFL history to win 15 games during the regular season.[1] That year, the Vikings, known for a high-powered offense, scored a then-NFL record 556 points, the most points scored by any team in the 1990s.[2]

The team cruised to the NFC Central title and held home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. They defeated the Arizona Cardinals in the Divisional round, but were defeated in overtime by the 14–2 Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game in one of the most disappointing losses in franchise history. The Vikings thus became the first team to win at least 15 games in the regular season and not win the Super Bowl. The Pittsburgh Steelers became the second in 2004, the New England Patriots became the 3rd in 2007 (they were a perfect 16–0 in the regular season but lost the Super Bowl to the Giants from New York), and in 2011 the Green Bay Packers became the 4th.

The 2006 edition of Pro Football Prospectus,[3] listed the 1998 as one of their "Heartbreak Seasons," in which teams "dominated the entire regular season only to falter in the playoffs, unable to close the deal," as well as miss their window of opportunity. Said Pro Football Prospectus, [t]he pairing of the strong armed [quarterback] Randall Cunningham and [rookie wide receiver] Randy Moss was perfect—they connected 69 times for 1,313 yards and an amazing 17 touchdowns. The defense held its own, ranking sixth in points allowed.

"All that stood between the Vikings and a Super Bowl appearance," Pro Football Prospectus continued, were the upstart Atlanta Falcons, an 11-point underdog. The Falcons stayed close while the Vikings offense sputtered. With two minutes left, Gary Anderson, who had missed no kicks all season, missed a 38-yarder that would have given the Vikings an insurmountable 10-point lead. The Falcons scored a game-tying touchdown and won in overtime. The next season, though they would return to the playoffs, the magic was gone as constant double teams of Moss left Cunningham ineffective and eventually benched.

The 1998 Vikings team was chosen to be one of five teams profiled in the second series of NFL Network's America's Game, focusing on teams that failed to live up to their Super Bowl promise and titled America's Game: The Missing Rings. The Vikings joined the Buffalo Bills' first Super Bowl team, one of Don Coryell's San Diego Chargers teams, the Cincinnati Bengals' second Super Bowl team, and the Vikings' first Super Bowl team.


1998 Draft

Main article: 1998 NFL draft
Draft order Player name Position College Notes
Round Choice Overall
1 21 21 Randy Moss Wide receiver Marshall
2 21 51 Kailee Wong Linebacker Stanford
3 19 80 Ramos McDonald Cornerback New Mexico
4 18 110 Kivuusama Mays Linebacker North Carolina
5 21 144 Kerry Cooks Safety Iowa
6 20 173 Matt Birk Offensive tackle Harvard
7 19 208 Chester Burnett Linebacker Arizona
36 225 Tony Darden Cornerback Texas Tech Compensatory pick

Regular season

Prior to the start of the 1998 season, the Vikings were sold to Red McCombs. The NFL had not been happy with the Vikings' ownership arrangement of ten owners with none owning 30%. The ownership decided to sell the club. At first it appeared that Tom Clancy would become the new owner. However, his attempt to buy the team fell through. So in July 1998, the team was sold to McCombs who was from San Antonio, Texas.

1998 was a year to remember for the Minnesota Vikings. With a spectacular offense led by quarterback Randall Cunningham, who had the best year of his NFL career, running back Robert Smith, veteran wide receiver Cris Carter, and explosive rookie Randy Moss, the Vikings set a then-NFL record by scoring a total of 556 points, never scoring fewer than 24 in a game. The Vikings finished the season 15–1, their only loss by three points to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week nine. 12 of their 15 wins came by a margin of at least 10 points.

File:Vikings at PB.JPG
Ten Vikings (not all pictured) were named to the 1999 Pro Bowl.

According to Football Outsiders, "The Vikings led the league with 52 plays of 25+ yards. They had 22 offensive plays of 40+ yards; no other team had more than 16 plays of that length."[4]

In the playoffs, the Vikings rolled past the Arizona Cardinals 41–21, and came into the Metrodome heavily favored for their NFC title showdown with the Atlanta Falcons, who had finished 14–2. Leading 20–7 just before halftime, some would argue that the Vikings got greedy with their playcalling, as they called a deep pass play on 3rd down, which led to a Cunningham fumble deep in Minnesota territory. Shortly thereafter, the Falcons scored to cut the lead to 20–14. The Vikings were again leading 27–20 with two minutes left in the 4th quarter and had a chance to potentially put the game out of reach with a field goal. However, kicker Gary Anderson, who had gone 35 for 35 in the regular season, missed a 38-yard attempt. With multiple defensive injuries for the Vikings the Falcons subsequently marched downfield and scored the game-tying touchdown several plays later.

A controversial decision in the game is that Viking Head Coach Dennis Green opted to take a knee on a third-down deep in Viking territory with about 30 seconds remaining rather than risk having to punt back to Atlanta following their game-tying touchdown. Minnesota won the coin-toss in overtime but failed to score in two overtime possessions. Atlanta eventually won 30–27 in overtime on Morten Andersen's field goal, which was, coincidentally, also a 38-yarder on the same uprights.


Week Date Kickoff (CT) Opponent Results Game site TV Attendance
Final score Team record
1 September 6 12:00 p.m. Tampa Bay Buccaneers W 31–7 1–0 Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome FOX 62,538
2 September 13 12:00 p.m. at St. Louis Rams W 38–31 2–0 Trans World Dome FOX 56,234
3 September 20 12:00 p.m. Detroit Lions W 29–6 3–0 Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome FOX 63,107
4 September 27 3:15 p.m. at Chicago Bears W 31–28 4–0 Soldier Field FOX 57,783
5 October 5 8:00 p.m. at Green Bay Packers W 37–24 5–0 Lambeau Field ABC 59,849
6 Bye
7 October 18 12:00 p.m. Washington Redskins W 41–7 6–0 Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome FOX 64,004
8 October 25 12:00 p.m. at Detroit Lions W 34–13 7–0 Pontiac Silverdome FOX 77,885
9 November 1 12:00 p.m. at Tampa Bay Buccaneers L 24–27 7–1 Raymond James Stadium FOX 64,979
10 November 8 12:00 p.m. New Orleans Saints W 31–24 8–1 Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome FOX 63,779
11 November 15 12:00 p.m. Cincinnati Bengals W 24–3 9–1 Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome CBS 64,232
12 November 22 12:00 p.m. Green Bay Packers W 28–14 10–1 Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome FOX 64,471
13 November 26 3:15 p.m. at Dallas Cowboys W 46–36 11–1 Texas Stadium FOX 64,366
14 December 6 8:15 p.m. Chicago Bears W 48–22 12–1 Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome ESPN 64,247
15 December 13 3:15 p.m. at Baltimore Ravens W 38–28 13–1 Ravens Stadium at Camden Yards FOX 69,074
16 December 20 7:15 p.m. Jacksonville Jaguars W 50–10 14–1 Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome ESPN 64,363
17 December 26 11:30 a.m. at Tennessee Oilers W 26–16 15–1 Vanderbilt Stadium FOX 41,121

Notable moments

Cris Carter and rookie Randy Moss caught two touchdowns apiece as the Vikings routed the Bucs 31–7 despite being outgained in yards 319 to 298.

Brad Johnson was intercepted twice and eventually knocked out of the game; his replacement Randall Cunningham threw a late touchdown to Cris Carter. Robert Smith rushed for 179 yards and two touchdowns as the Rams stayed within a touchdown despite four Tony Banks interceptions. A last-minute goalline stand by the Vikings sealed a 38–31 win.

Cunningham made his first start of the season and threw for 220 yards and a five-yard score to Randy Moss. The game was mostly a Gary Anderson field goal exhibition as he booted five field goals plus two PATs, the second on Leroy Hoard's 11-yard rushing touchdown in the Vikes' 29–6 win.

Cunningham and Erik Kramer of the Bears squared off in a spirited duel. Cunningham's four touchdowns (to Smith, Andrew Glover, Carter, and Moss) were answered by Kramer's four scores (to Bobby Engram, Chris Penn, and Ryan Wetnight). The Vikings got the better of the duel as they intercepted Kramer once and won 31–28.

Randall Cunningham and Randy Moss unleashed a passing clinic on Monday Night at Lambeau Field as Cunningham tossed for 422 yards and Moss caught five passes for 190 yards and two scores. Cris Carter added eight for 119 yards as the Vikings also intercepted Brett Favre three times; backup Doug Pederson took over and threw two scores in the fourth quarter; they did nothing to assauge a 37–24 Vikings win.

The Vikings quest for perfection ended as Warrick Dunn and Mike Alstott erupted to 243 rushing yards and two scores. Two Cunningham touchdown throws put the Vikings up 24–17 until Alstott's score in the fourth proved the key to Tampa's 27–24 upset of the Vikings.

Cunningham threw only two passes against New Orleans and Brad Johnson came off the bench to throw for 316 yards and a touchdown despite two picks; Sammy Knight ran back one pick for a 91-yard touchdown in the fourth. Robert Smith surged to 137 rushing yards; he and Leroy Hoard accounted for three touchdowns in Minnesota's 31–24 win.

Cunningham and Moss led a wild 46–36 win at Dallas as Moss caught just three passes – for 163 yards and three touchdowns. Cris Carter snagged seven passes for 135 yards and a score and Leroy Hoard ran in two more touchdowns. Troy Aikman threw for a career-high 455 yards and a score to Patrick Jeffers while Emmitt Smith ran in three scores; despite 513 total yards the Cowboys could not keep pace with the Vikings. The game was also a penalty-laden affair with a combined 23 fouls eating 230 yards.

Four years after Warren Moon's overtime win over the Bears on Sunday Night Football, the Vikings clinched the NFC Central title by once again hosting the Bears on Sunday Night Football. Randall Cunningham unleashed four more touchdowns, three of them to Randy Moss. Leroy Hoard added a rushing score while the Bears fumbled at the Vikings six-yard line and Dwayne Rudd scored with the turnover. The Vikings won 48–14.

Vikings offensive coordinator Brian Billick faced his employer for the following season as the two teams combined for just 143 rushing yards. The Ravens coughed up five fumbles but the Vikings offense was largely held in check, with Gary Anderson booting six field goals and Randall Cunningham held to two touchdowns, one to Randy Moss. Future 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh threw a 42-yard touchdown to his former Colts teammate Floyd Turner while Corey Haris, David Palmer on kick returns and Priest Holmes on a two-yard run gave the Ravens the rest of their points scored in a 38–28 Vikings win.

Despite 108 penalty yards the Vikings reached 50 points in a 50–10 slaughter of the AFC Central champion Jaguars. Randall Cunningham threw for 210 yards and three touchdowns, then gave way to Brad Johnson who added a touchdown of his own. Cunningham was one of three Vikings players who rushed for 161 yards and a Chuck Evans touchdown while Jimmy Hitchcock intercepted Jonathan Quinn and scored from 30 yards out.

The Vikings became the final club to play against Tennessee before they officially became the Titans. The Oilers clawed to a 13–8 halftime lead despite an intentional grounding penalty against Steve McNair that led to a safety. Two Randall Cunningham touchdowns in the third quarter put the game away to a 26–16 Vikings win, the 15th of the season.


NFC Central
(1) Minnesota Vikings 15 1 0 .938 556 296 W8
(5) Green Bay Packers 11 5 0 .688 408 319 W3
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 8 8 0 .500 314 295 W1
Detroit Lions 5 11 0 .313 306 378 L4
Chicago Bears 4 12 0 .250 276 368 L1


Week Date Opponent Results Game site Attendance
Final score Team record
Div January 10 Arizona Cardinals W 41–21 1–0 Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome 63,760
NFC January 17 Atlanta Falcons L 27–30 (OT) 1–1 Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome 64,060

NFC Divisional Playoff Game

Minnesota Vikings 41, Arizona Cardinals 21
1 2 34Total
Cardinals 0 7 7721
Vikings 7 17 10741

at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis

  • Date: January 10, 1999
  • Game time: 3:15 p.m. CST
  • Game attendance: 72,698
  • TV: NFL on Fox



The Vikings improve their record to 16-1 with a one-sided win over the Arizona Cardinals 41-21 and move on to the NFC Championship Game.

NFC Championship Game

Atlanta Falcons 30, Minnesota Vikings 27
1 2 34OTTotal
Falcons 7 7 310330
Vikings 7 13 07027

at Hubert Humphrey Metrodome, Minneapolis, MN

  • Date: January 17, 1999
  • Game time: 11:30 p.m. PDT
  • Game attendance: 72,698
  • TV: NFL on Fox



The 16–1 Vikings, boasting the league's first post-merger 500-point offense since the 1983 Washington Redskins, were heavy favorites at Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and raced to a 20–7 lead in the second quarter off two Randall Cunningham touchdowns (one rushing and a throw to Randy Moss), but at the end of the first half Chris Chandler found Terance Mathis for a 14-yard score. After a Morten Andersen field goal made it 20–17 in the third, the Vikings surged to a 27–17 lead on another Cunningham TD throw (this one to Matthew Hatchette). In the frantic final ten minutes of regulation the Falcons were forced to turn the ball over on downs, but the Vikings fumbled it right back and Andersen kicked another field goal for a 27–20 score. In the final four minutes Gary Anderson, who hadn't missed a field goal all season, shanked a 38-yarder, and suddenly the surging Falcons had a chance, and nailed it when Chandler led the Falcons downfield and connected with Mathis in the endzone with 49 seconds remaining. The Vikings got the ball in overtime but Eugene Robinson stopped a deep pass to Moss and the Falcons got it back on a punt. Chandler led the Falcons downfield again and Andersen nailed a 38-yard field goal at 11:52 of the extra quarter; the 30–27 final sent the Falcons to Super Bowl XXXIII.


Team leaders

Category Player(s) Value
Passing yards Randall Cunningham 3,704
Passing touchdowns Randall Cunningham 34
Rushing yards Robert Smith 1,187
Rushing touchdowns Leroy Hoard 9
Receiving yards Randy Moss 1,313
Receiving touchdowns Randy Moss 17
Points Gary Anderson 164
Kickoff return yards David Palmer 1,176
Punt return yards David Palmer 289
Tackles Ed McDaniel 125
Sacks John Randle 10.5
Interceptions Jimmy Hitchcock 7
Forced fumbles Ed McDaniel
John Randle

Best performances

  • Randall Cunningham, 442 passing yards vs. Green Bay (October 5)[5]
  • Randy Moss, 3 receptions, 163 yards, 3 TD at Dallas (November 26)

League rankings

Category Total yards Yards per game NFL rank
(out of 30)
Passing offense 4,328 270.5 1st
Rushing offense 1,936 121.0 11th
Total offense 6,264 391.5 2nd
Passing defense 3,452 215.8 19th
Rushing defense 1,614 100.9 11th
Total defense 5,066 316.6 13th



1998 Minnesota Vikings staff
Front Office
  • Owner – Red McCombs
  • President – Gary Woods
  • Executive Vice President/General Manager – Tim Connolly

Head Coaches

Offensive Coaches

  • Offensive Coordinator – Brian Billick
  • Quarterbacks – Chip Myers
  • Running Backs – Carl Hargrave
  • Wide Receivers – Hubbard Alexander
  • Tight Ends – Dave Atkins
  • Offensive Line – Mike Tice
  • Coaching Assistant – Wade Harman

Defensive Coaches

  • Defensive Coordinator – Foge Fazio
  • Defensive Line – Andre Patterson
  • Inside Linebackers – Tom Olivadotti
  • Outside Linebackers – Trent Walters
  • Defensive Backs – Richard Solomon

Special Teams Coaches

Strength and Conditioning

  • Strength and Conditioning – Steve Wetzel
  • Assistant Strength and Conditioning – Jeff Friday


Final roster

1998 Minnesota Vikings final roster

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Offensive linemen

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Reserve lists

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Rookies in italics
51 Active, 9 Inactive, 1 Practice squad

Awards and records

  • Randy Moss, led rookies in receiving yards, (1,313 yards)[5] Moss also set the record for most receiving touchdowns for a rookie, 17, a record that still stands today.[8]
  • The Vikings became just the third team to post a 15–1 win-loss record since the implementation of the 16-game schedule in 1978. They joined the 1984 San Francisco 49ers and the 1985 Chicago Bears, but became the first of those teams to fail to win the Super Bowl.
  • The Vikings' high-powered offense set a record, which stood until the 2007 season, for most points scored in a season with 556. They eclipsed the 1983 Washington Redskins, who scored 541. The 2007 New England Patriots beat the record by scoring 589 points. The 1998 Vikings now rank fifth all time, behind the 606 points scored by the 2013 Denver Broncos. However, unlike the Vikings, the 2011 Green Bay Packers were unable to win a playoff game during that particular season. It's worth noting that the 1998 Vikings followed in the footsteps of the 1983 Redskins and set a mark the 2007 Patriots and 2013 Broncos matched: none of these teams won the Super Bowl.


  1. The others were the 1984 San Francisco 49ers, the 1985 Chicago Bears, and later the 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers and 2011 Green Bay Packers.
  2. The all-time record was broken by the 2007 New England Patriots who finished the season with 589 points.
  3. Pro Football Prospectus 2006 (ISBN 0761142177), p. 73–75
  4. 1998 DVOA Ratings and Commentary
  5. 5.0 5.1 NFL 2001 Record and Fact Book, Workman Publishing Co, New York, NY, ISBN 0-7611-2480-2, p. 440
  6. 2009 Minnesota Vikings Media Guide. p. 251. Retrieved 2010-02-26. 
  8. Randy Moss