Memorable moments often come from memorable opportunities. The Minnesota Vikings have been the longest tenants at the Metrodome, a part of its 31 years of existence and the last remaining occupant.
Yet, the big games for the Vikings over the years, more often than not, came on the road. The Metrodome hosted two playoff games for the Vikings over the first 10 years of its existence. The record for the Vikings during that time kept the Dome from seeing moments like in 2009, when Minnesota hosted the Dallas Cowboys and won 34-3.
"That playoff game in ’09 when we played Dallas, that thing felt like it was floating in there it was so loud," defensive tackle Kevin Williams recalled. "The main thing is the crowd there. When the crowd is behind us, it’s an awesome building and its really loud. I think if you look at some stats, that crowd has probably forced more false starts and penalties than a lot of these stadiums in the league. It’s definitely served its purpose and been good to us."
But the Vikings didn’t have the opportunity to take advantage of the Metrodome in the playoffs over the years, particularly in the lean years from 1983 (one year after the Metrodome opened) through 1991. Many of the memorable moments in the Metrodome have occurred over the last 15 years, and didn’t have the added suspense of the playoffs.
Randy Moss filled the Metrodome with more excitement than maybe anyone in Vikings’ history from the moment he stepped into the stadium as a rookie in 1998. While spectators came to expect anything from Moss in his time at the Metrodome, no one could see this play coming. In Week 6 against the Denver Broncos, Moss hauled in a long pass from Daunte Culpepper on third-and-24 with time running out in the first half. Moss caught the pass at the 11-yard line and was hit quickly by a pair of Denver defenders.
But as he was going down, Moss flipped the ball behind him where running back Moe Williams was coming up. Williams went untouched into the end zone and Minnesota ended up beating the Broncos 28-20. The play led Vikings’ radio announcer Paul Allen to exclaim, "The improvisation of Randy Moss would win him an Academy Award." The play was significant enough that Moss named it one of his favorite memories of the Metrodome.
9. Sept. 26, 1993 — Eric Guliford? Who?
Mention the name Eric Guliford to Vikings’ fans who were alive in 1993 and they can tell you the play. Before it happened, none of them likely could have told you about Guliford. Guliford was an undrafted receiver out of Arizona State who had one catch in his career for Minnesota. He made it count.
In Week 3 of the 1993 season, the Vikings were trailing the Green Bay Packers and had the ball at midfield on a third-and-10 play. Quarterback Jim McMahon rolled out and lofted a ball deep to Guliford. Guliford, who was also a punt returner, fielded the ball almost like a punt and was pushed out of bounds at the 5-yard line for a 45-yard catch. With six seconds left, Fuad Reveiz kicked a game-winning field goal in a 15-12 Vikings’ win. Guliford finished his career with just 67 NFL catches for three different teams. His one catch for Minnesota keeps him in Vikings’ lore.
8. Sept. 6, 1998 — A sign of things to come
The drafting of Moss in the first round, after the electric receiver was passed over by several teams, had already created excitement among the Minnesota fan base. His first game would take the fervor to another level. Ask Moss and he remembers his first game in the Metrodome very well: "Yeah, I scored two touchdowns against the Bucs from Brad Johnson. Oh yeah."
Moss always had a flair for the dramatic and what an entrance he made in his rookie season. Moss’ debut was a sign of things to come in a special 1998 season for the Vikings and a possible Hall of Fame career for Moss. He had four catches for 95 in a 31-7 win against Tampa Bay, catching touchdown passes of 48 and 31 yards from quarterback Brad Johnson. The dominating offensive display continued as Moss won the rookie of the year award and Minnesota went 15-1, setting a then-record for points scored in a season.
7. Nov. 30, 2008 — Another Dome record
In its 31 years, the Metrodome has been host to several NFL records, some of which will never be broken. The two longest plays in NFL history occurred at the Dome — one replicated this year when Cordarrelle Patterson returned a kickoff 109 yards for a touchdown. Gus Frerotte and Bernard Berrian own part of another record.
In a Sunday night game on national TV, the Vikings were hosting Berrian’s former team, the Chicago Bears, in Berrian’s first year with Minnesota. The Vikings’ defense had stuffed Chicago on four plays from the 1-yard line to turn the ball over to the offense. On the first offensive play, Frerotte heaved a ball from his own end zone and found Berrian, who finished off a 99-yard touchdown reception to tie the NFL record for longest play from scrimmage, the second 99-yard play in the Metrodome’s history.
6. Dec. 1, 1994 — The football walk-off
Minnesota was in jeopardy of letting a 7-2 start to the season and a chance at an NFC Central crown evaporate with three straight losses. Chicago came to town and played the Vikings to overtime, when Warren Moon and Cris Carter came to the rescue.
In overtime, Moon found a streaking Carter down the sideline and hit Carter in stride. Carter broke a tackle and ran away from another defender on the way to a 65-yard touchdown catch in overtime, giving Minnesota a 33-27 win against the Bears in true walk-off fashion. However, the Bears would end up coming back to the Metrodome in the playoffs and ended the Vikings’ season with a 35-18 win.
5. Dec. 30, 2012 — "Nine yards what?"
That was Adrian Peterson’s response after the final game of the 2012 regular season. Sideline reporter Pam Oliver caught up with Peterson after Minnesota’s 37-34 win against Green Bay, which clinched a playoff appearance for the Vikings. Peterson didn’t know he had fallen nine yards shy of the league’s single-season rushing record.
"Nine yards, what? From breaking it?," Peterson asked Oliver, surprised. But the game will live on in the memories of the fans in attendance that day. Peterson needed 208 yards coming into the game to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season record. Peterson carried Minnesota to the playoffs with 34 carries for 199 yards and had two touchdowns. He was acknowledged by the crowd after he surpassed 2,000 yards, becoming just the seventh player in NFL history to reach the mark and he ended his MVP season with 2,097 yards, the second most in league history and nine yards shy of a new record.
4. Oct. 5, 2009 — Favre’s revenge
The stage was set. Brett Favre had come out of semi-retirement, again. In his first season with Minnesota, he got to face his old team, the Green Bay Packers. The first game was at the Metrodome, on Monday Night Football, no less. The eyes of the NFL looked towards the Metrodome that night.
Favre completed 24 of 31 passes against his former team for 271 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-23 win. Favre’s theatrics — not to be outdone by another moment on this list — were another part of a magical 2009 season for the Vikings.
The trade rocked the NFL. Minnesota and Dallas pulled off the swap of all swaps, trading a total of 18 players and draft picks five weeks into the 1989 season. But there was one target among the 18 players and picks: Herschel Walker. The Vikings wanted to the talented running back and were plenty willing to pay dearly for him.
Minnesota received Walker and four later-round draft picks. The Cowboys would build a dynasty on eight Vikings’ draft picks, including three first-rounders, along with five players. Walker almost had no way to live up to the trade, but his first carry with Minnesota will always be remembered.
Coming against rival Green Bay, no less, Walker took a handoff up the middle 47 yards, famously losing his shoe in the process. His first game in Vikings’ purple ended up with 18 carries for 148 yards and a 26-14 win. It was not a harbinger of things to come.
In three seasons in Minnesota, Walker had 2,264 yards rushing and didn’t reach 1,000 yards once. He would only pass 100 yards rushing in a game three more times with the Vikings. But that first run, losing his shoe, will live in Vikings lore along with the trade.
2. Sept. 27, 2009 — "Oh my heavens."
Yes, Favre had a flair for the dramatic in his short time with Minnesota and no moment sticks out more than his last-second heave to Greg Lewis in the back of the end zone to beat the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3. The pass was the first sign something magical was happening with the Vikings and Favre.
Minnesota, 2-0 at the time, was trailing 24-20 to San Francisco with 12 seconds left. With the ball at the 32-yard line, Favre rolled out to his right, avoided a 49ers defender and fired a pass to the back of the end zone to Lewis, who just managed to drag his feet in the end zone.
The play helped propel the Vikings to a 12-4 record in Favre’s first season, only to be devastated by an NFC Championship Game loss at the Superdome. Lewis was playing in his first game with Minnesota and caught his first pass from Favre on the miraculous play, which caused Paul Allen to exclaim, "Oh my heavens. Greg Lewis, welcome to Minnesota. Oh my heavens."
"That whole 2009 season was phenomenal," defensive end Jared Allen recalled. "That catch in the back of the end zone that Greg Lewis made, he had just got here. We were smashing the Niners, they came back, and all of a sudden, to end the game like that, that was pretty memorable. There’s been so many great memories."
Only one better …
1. Nov. 4, 2007 — Run rookie, run
Moss made his impression felt quickly in his first game in the Metrodome. Adrian Peterson did the same. But Peterson would serve notice for good a few weeks later. Peterson, the No. 7 overall draft pick in 2007, had 100 yards rushing and a 60-yard touchdown catch in his Metrodome debut. He went over 200 yards rushing four weeks later at Chicago. Week 9 at home against the San Diego Chargers would top it all.
On the opening drive of the second half, Minnesota had quarterback Brooks Bollinger threw on five of the first six plays. Peterson, who had 43 yards in the first half, had just one carry for six yards. Then it was Peterson’s time. He broke off a 64-yard touchdown on the seventh play of the half. Add in a 46-yard touchdown run and Peterson was off to the record books, totaling 253 yards rushing in the second half to set the still-standing NFL single-game record with 296 yards in Minnesota’s 35-17 win.