History Lesson: Vikings 31, Buccaneers 7 (Week 1, 1998)
Every week, we’ll take a look at one of the week’s matchups and reminisce about a previous meeting between the teams.Vikings 31, Buccaneers 7 (Week 1, 1998)Seemingly not so long ago, the Buccaneers and Vikings opened their ’98 seasons in the Metrodome, the scene of not only an impressive individual debut but the springboard for one of the most exciting offensive displays in league history that had more than its share of twists and turns.Both Tampa Bay and Minnesota were coming off playoff campaigns in 1997, a season in which 4 of the 5 teams in the then-NFC Central would reach the postseason. The Buccaneers would defeat Detroit in the first playoff game for head coach Tony Dungy, then lose to the defending Super Bowl champion and eventual NFC champion Packers (the last time a team in that conference reached consecutive Super Bowls). Meanwhile, the Vikings would rally for an improbable victory over the Giants in the Meadowlands in the NFC Wild Card Game (head coach Dennis Green’s first playoff win in 4 tries), then fell to San Francisco in the Divisional Playoffs. So when Dungy’s and Green’s teamssquared off in the opener in Minnesota, both clubs had designs on challenging Green Bay for division supremacy.<!--more-->The Vikings were a team loaded on both sides of the ball, particularly on offense with QB Brad Johnson, RB Robert Smith, WRs Cris Carter and Jake Reed and a very formidable offensive line led by Hall of Fame G Randall McDaniel. But Green also added another piece via the draft in April in the form of WR Randy Moss, an unquestioned talent on the field but a controversial figure that caused his stock to fall, hence the Vikings scooped him up with the 21st pick that spring. And Moss would make his presence felt immediately.After a Johnson to Carter 1-yard TD connection made the score 7-0 in the first quarter, Johnson would find the rookie wideout twice for scores (48 and 31 yards) in an 8-minute span, giving Minnesota a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Moss would finish the afternoon with 4 receptions for 95 yards and those 2 scores in theteam’s 24-point victory, the start of an incredible season for the talented receiver and the Vikings as well.Green’s club was enroute to a 15-1 campaign (their only loss to the Buccaneers at Tampa), scoring a then-record 556 points (since broken by the 2007 Patriots but still the second-most points in a season), mostly under the guidance of QB Randall Cunningham, who replaced an injured Johnson and started the final 14 regular-season games. And Moss was a major factor, catching 69 passes for 1,313 yards and 17 touchdowns, the latter a record for rookies (Carter would lead the team with 78 catches, 12 for scores). The Vikings’ season would eventually end with a tough overtime loss to the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game at the Metrodome, but there’s no denying that this was one of the great offensive units for a season in league annals.Of course, Moss would go onto become one of the great scoring threats in the history of the league, his 153 TD receptions tied for second in NFL annals with WR Terrell Owens. Currently not with a team, it will be interesting to see if the mercurial wideout emerges with a club in 2011.