The Minnesota Vikings won their fourth consecutive division title in 1971 but they dream of a Super Bowl ended on Christmas Day when they dropped a 20-12 decision at home to Dallas in the playoffs. The offense which struggled all season with injuries to the receiving corp and struggles at quarterback. While the defense continued to be a strong suit for the Vikings which was led by NFL Most Valuable Player Alan Page and the rest of the purple gang. Page would be the only defensive MVP till Lawrence Taylor in 1986. This is a look back at some of the best Vikings games from the 1971 season.
September 20, 1971 Tiger Stadium Detroit, MI: Minnesota 16 Detroit 13: The Vikings on opening day of the 1971 season had to rally from a 13-0 deficit to beat their division rivals. The Detroit Lions jumped out to a early lead when they drove 71-yards and Errol Mann kicked a 20-yard field goal for the early lead. However the Lions had missed a golden opportunity for a touchdown when a Greg Landry pass to the end zone was dropped by Larry Walton. On the ensuing kickoff Clint Jones of the Vikings fumbled the kickoff which was recovered by the Lions Craig Cotton. Four plays later Landry hit Mel Farr on a three yard scoring pass for a 10-0 lead. The Lions other score was setup when Larry Hand recovered a Dave Osborn fumble which resulted in Mann’s second field goal of the game. This time it was from the 36=yard line. Minnesota got on the board later in the half when Fred Cox connected on a 13-yard field goal. In the third quarter Minnesota scored again when Bob Grim beat the Lions lem Barney on a 45-yard pass from Gary Cuozzo. Cox in the fourth quarter tied the game on a 42-yard field goal and added a nine yard field goal for the go ahead score. Mann missed a tying field goal with seven seconds left 32-yards out. In addition he missed field goals of 53, 53, and 39 yards which helped the Vikings.
October 31, 1971 Yankee Stadium New York, NY: Minnesota 17 New York 10: Norm Snead of the Vikings hit wide receiver Bob Grim for 55-yards with 1:04 left in the game. It was the second touchdown of the day for Grim who earlier setup Minnesota’s other touchdown on a 56-yard end around run. Dave Osborn would soon score from the two to give Minnesota the early lead. The Giants scores would occur when Pete Gogolak kicked 37-yard field goal and Charlie Evans would score from the three giving New York a 10-7 halftime lead. Late in the third quarter Fred Cox would tie the game on a 37-yard field goal.
Snead had come into the game midway through the fourth quarter replacing inured starter Gary Cuozzo.
November 14, 1971 Metropolitan Stadium Bloomington, MN: Minnesota 3 Green Bay 0: Fred Cox of the Vikings kicked a 25-yard field goal with 4:08 left in the game for the only points on the afternoon. Even though the Packers out gained the Vikings by a three to one margin the four turnovers by them saved Minnesota. On this day the Packers rushed for 245 yards. led by John Brockington;s 149 yards on 23-carries. While the Vikings attack could only muster 87 nets yards rushing and passing. The winning score was setup when Charlie West intercepted a Scott Hunter pass at the Vikings goal line and ran it back to midfield. In the third quarter Donny Anderson of the Packers fumbled near the goal line again and Paul Krause scooped it up. The Vikings Carl Gersbach tipped a Lou Michaels 23-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter. It was a day in which the Packers continually shot themselves in the foot.
December 11, 1971 Metropolitan Stadium Bloomington, MN: Minnesota 29 Detroit 10: On this late season showdown the Vikings clinched their fourth consecutive division title while Detroit ended their playoff hopes for 1971. Today Minnesota didn’t waste anytime in scoring as linebacker Roy Winston intercepted a Greg Landry pass and returned it 29-yards for a score. The Vikings stayed pretty much in control of this game as a fumble by the Lions Lem Barney setup a Clint Jones three yard run just before halftime making the score 14-3 Minnesota. In the third quarter the Vikings added a Fred Cox 10-yard field goal after a Ed Sharockman interception set it up. The Lions scores came on a 35-yard Errol Mann field goal in the second quarter. The the lone touchdown came when Bill Munson replaced Landry and hit Larry Walton on a four yard scoring pass making it 17-10 after three quarters. Early in the fourth quarter the Lions imploded as Alan Page blocked a Herman Weaver punt through the end zone for a safety. Cox added a 32 yard field goal with 9:32 left to play in the game. With 3:58 left to play Coxwas short on a 23-yard field goal attempt and Jim Mitchell of the Lions fumbled the ball and Jim Lindsay of the Vikings recovered for the final touchdown of the game.
Even though Dallas and Minnesota had the two best records in their conference in 1971 still met because the league didn’t go by best record till 1975. Otherwise San Francisco would’ve traveled to Dallas and Minnesota hosted Washington in the playoffs. In the off season the Vikings reacquired Fran Tarkenton from the Giants in exchange for Snead and draft choices in an attempt to get over the hump. This would be the second stint for Tarkenton as he played for Minnesota from 1961 to 1966.
1971 Minnesota Vikings John Schaefer
1971 Minnesota Vikings www.profootballreference.com