Maybe, just maybe, the Minny Miracle has reversed the longstanding playoff curse that has bedeviled the Minnesota Vikings.
It’s hard to find a more improbable ending to a football game than the play that gave the star-crossed Vikings a 29-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints and a ticket to the NFC Championship game.
More improbable than the Immaculate Reception of 1972 or the Music City Miracle of 2000? The craziest ending to a playoff game in NFL history? Yeah, why not?
Visions of Super Bowls danced in the heads of Viking fans when Stefon Diggs leaped for Case Keenum’s desperation pass, somehow eluded two defenders and raced down the sidelines to complete an unbelievable 61-yard touchdown pass.
The Vikings, founded in 1961, have played in four Super Bowls – and lost all four, the last to the Oakland Raiders 41 years ago. Minnesota shares the title of biggest Super Bowl loser with the Buffalo Bills, also 0-4.
However, the Vikes have come close many other times, only to suffer playoff disappointments. Here are the top five Minny heartbreakers.
2015 – Kicker Blair Walsh hooks a last-minute, chip shot field goal as the Seattle Seahawks hang on to defeat the Vikings 10-9 in a divisional round stunner.
2010 – Three fumbles, two by Adrian Peterson, and a Brett Favre interception that led to overtime were crucial in this loss. The Saints went on to win 31-28.
2001 – The Vikings appeared primed for their first Super Bowl appearance in a quarter century. But they ran into a New York Giants buzz saw and suffered a 41-0 loss, the worst setback in NFC Championship game history.
1999 – Gary Anderson, perfect in the regular season, missed a 37-yard field goal that would have given the Vikings an insurmountable lead late in the NFC Championship game. The Atlanta Falcons scored the game-tying touchdown in the final minutes. Minnesota, 15-1 in the regular season, lost the coin flip in overtime and never got the ball back as Morton Anderson’s 38-yard field goal won it for the Falcons.
1975 – In the play that birthed the term “Hail Mary,” Roger Staubach connected with Drew Pearson on a 50-yard touchdown in the waning seconds and the Dallas Cowboys squashed Viking Super Bowl dreams with a 17-14 victory at the old Metropolitan Stadium.
Minny Miracle Call: http://awfulannouncing.com/nfl/vikings-radio-minneapolis-miracle.html
Recently I read “1941: The Greatest Year in Sports” by Mike Vaccaro, the excellent columnist for the New York Post. Vacaro interweaves vignettes about the year in sports – Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, Ted Williams .406 season, Whirlaway’s Triple Crown, Joe Louis over Billy Conn and more – with the shadow of war hanging over the world in 1941. Excellent read.
My favorite sports year is 1951 – my birth year. That was a great year for sports.
Start with “The Shot Heard Round the World,” Bobby Thomson’s dramatic ninth inning home run off Ralph Branca at the Polo Grounds that gave the Giants the National League pennant over the Dodgers. At one point in August, the Giants trailed Brooklyn by 13 1/2 games, yet came all the way back to win a dramatic playoff game on what is generally regarded as the most memorable home run in baseball history,
The Yankees went on to beat the Giants in six games in the World Series. It was Joe DiMaggio’s final appearance in the Fall Classic; while Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays found October’s spotlight as rookies.
The year 1951 saw the first professional championship in North America for a team based West of St. Louis. The Los Angeles Rams beat the Cleveland Browns 24-17, gaining revenge for a last-minute loss to the Browns in 1950.
Earlier in the 1951 season opener, LA quarterback Norm Van Brocklin passed for 554 yards and five TDs in a 54-14 win over the New York Yanks. That record has stood up for more than 66 years.
The world of boxing witnessed the career intersection of two of the game’s all-time heavyweights. Rocky Marciano and Joe Louis. In an October bout at Madison Square Garden, Marciano, age 27, knocked down Louis, 37, twice in the eighth round before the fight was called as a TKO.
The great golfer Ben Hogan overcame a near-fatal automobile accident in 1949, winning both the Masters and the US Open.
In the NBA, the New York Knickerbockers nearly overcame a 3-0 deficit against the Rochester Royals before losing in seven games. The Royals won the final game 79-75 on April 21. It was their first, and to date only, NBA Championship.
That same day, the Toronto Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup four games to one over the Montreal Canadians, with all five games going into overtime. Bill Barilko scored the Cup-winning goal; sadly it turned out to be his final goal. Barilko died in a plane crash during the summer in a fishing trip to northern Quebec.
Francesca was a pioneer. Along with his former co-host Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo, he set the standard for afternoon sports talk radio that is now a fixture in stations across America.
Russo’s departure for Sirius XM Radio in 2008 marked the end of the “Mike and the Mad Dog Show.” Francesa hosted “Mike’d Up”, his own show, for nine years. Both shows were ranked number one in the drive-time ratings.
Francesa could be tough on callers, and some called him a bully. Mike would call it arrogance. He was an opinionated host, all of which made for good listening.
Bottom line, Francesa generated interesting, entertaining radio in the New York market for 30 years.
Francesa had his detractors, most notably Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, who referred to him as “pompous, boastful and hypocritical” and more, right up until Mike’s final day on the job.
On a personal note, there was rarely a day I didn’t tune in to listen, at least for a while and especially if there was a hot topic about New York sports and one of my teams. My son, who was just an infant when Francesa started his run, would agree with me completely.
I was never the type to call in and voice my own opinions. But if I were to phone in, it would be to take umbrage with a statement Francesa made a few weeks back about Willie Mays being surly and unapproachable. I met Mays once on a flight from San Francisco to New York, and he couldn’t have been nicer.
We’re gonna miss you Mike. Thanks for all the good radio, and best of luck in the future.
Here are 10 reasons why Elisha Nelson Manning IV is a Hall of Fame quarterback.
ALL-TIME PASSING LEADERS
1. Eli ranks eighth all time in touchdown passes with 334.
2. He stands seventh all-time with 50,625 passing yards
3. Eli is sixth all-time in pass completions with 4319.
4. Manning is a two-time Super Bowl MVP. He joins a short list of Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Tom Brady, all of whom won multiple MVP. Manning led the Giants to two Super Bowl wins over the New England Patriots, including a stunning upset of Brady and the unbeaten Pats in 2007. .
5. Eli started 210 straight games, second in NFL history and two behind his brother Peyton. Only Brett Favre with 297 made more consecutive starts than Eli. Since Eli started his first game in 2004, every other NFL team has started at least three QBs. The Cleveland Browns have started 24 in the same time span.
Manning’s streak, of course, was snapped last week when coach Ben McAdoo made the highly questionable decision to start journeyman Geno Smith. It cost McAdoo his job.
GIANT AMONG MEN
6. A four-time Pro Bowler, Manning holds virtually every Giants passing record, including TD passes, passing yards and completions as documented above.
THE CLUTCH GENE
7. Eli has engineered 30 fourth quarter comebacks, tied for seventh all-time with Drew Brees, Favre, Ben Roethlisberger and Fran Tarkenton.
8. He’s tied for third all-time with four fourth quarter playoff comebacks with Roethlisberger, Bradshaw, John Elway and Russell Wilson.
9. Manning holds the NFL single season record for most TD passes in the fourth quarter with 15.
10. Leadership, durability, character, class. Elis has it all. Earlier this year Manning was named co-winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year, one of the league’s most prestigious honors. The coveted award honors NFL players for excellence on and off the field.
The Sportslifer has several connections to Aaron Boone and family, dating back more than half century. The karma appears real as the Yankees announced their 35th manager.
For openers, I was in the house at Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS at Yankee Stadium when Aaron Boone homered in the 11th inning to beat the Red Sox 6-5 and send the Yankees to the World Series.
In September of that season, I saw Aaron belt a solo homer in a 15-5 victory over the Tigers.
Two years before, at Game 3 of the 2001 ALCS, I saw Aaron’s older brother, Bret, hit a two-run homer against Mark Wohlers (yep, the former Braves closer) to cap a seven-run sixth inning and lead the Mariners over the Yankees 14-3. The Mariners won a record 116 games that year, but the Yanks won the series in five games.
My Dad took me to my very first Yankee game in 1958 at the original Yankee Stadium. Ray Boone, Aaron’s grandfather, had a solo home run and later a three-run double that day against future Hall of Famer Whitey Ford. The White Sox won 7-1.
Bob Boone, Ray’s son and Aaron and Bret’s father, was a catcher who enjoyed a 15-year MLB career.The only time I ever saw him play was in spring training in1981 when the Phillies played the Yankees in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Please allow me to introduce myself as a lifelong Giants fan. I saw my first game at Yankee Stadium in November of 1963, five days before President Kennedy’s assassination. And I’ve been rooting for the Giants ever since, in good times and bad.
I rejoiced in the four Super Bowl championships, each of which has a special meaning for me. I witnessed the on-field exploits of so many great Giants, from Y.A. Tittle, Frank Gifford and Sam Huff to Lawrence Taylor, Phil Simms, Michael Strahan and so many others.
And I survived the bad times, including the “Goodbye Ali” days, the fumble and those long playoff droughts. Good and bad, I’ve been there every Sunday for more than 50 years.
All of which brings me to the benching of Eli Manning. To say this was handled poorly is a gross understatement. The release of Simms a quarter century ago pales in comparison.
Given, the Giants need to look at the other quarterbacks on the roster to plan for the future.
But there’s got to be a better way to inform a franchise icon and the best QB in Giants history that he’s heading to the bench. It makes it sound like Eli is the reason the team is 2-9 – not the porous offensive line, the lack of talent at wide receiver and the lackluster running game. Heck, not even Tom Brady could succeed with this bunch. Eli Manning is the least of your problems.
The optics are terrible. Even though his eyes were watering and his lips quivering, Eli took the news with class. Ben McAdoo, on the other hand, failed to understand the magnitude of this decision, and his demeanor while making the announcement was detached and unemotional.
Let’s place the blame squarely where it belongs. Besides being a terrible communicator, McAdoo can’t coach or put together a game plan. And Jerry Reese can’t evaluate talent, based on most of his recent draft picks, or build a winning team.
As an organization, the Giants blew this one big time. And the fan base, media and football world seem to be in near universal agreement that this could have been handled differently.
I’m sure the message will ring loud and clear during the final three games with boos, plenty of empty seats and lots of Cowboys, Eagles and Redskins fans in the stands.
Mr. Mara, it’s time to clean house. Ben & Jerry must go. There’s no other way.
Loyal Giants fan, SportsLifer blogger and Iona Prep Class of ‘69 grad
And so it all comes down to this. The New York Giants have decided to bench their franchise quarterback, Eli Manning, for Geno Smith.
Yes, that’s right, coach Ben McAdoo, in a desperate attempt to save his job, is benching Eli, a two-time Super Bowl champion and future Hall of Famer who has started 210 straight games, second most in NFL history. This despite the fact that general manager Jerry Reese has given Eli virtually nothing to work with – unless you consider a porous O-line, virtually no running game, and a receiver corps besieged by injury as offensive weapons.
There’s something to be said for continuity in showing up to work every Sunday. Since Manning started his first game in 2004, the Cleveland Browns have had 24 starting quarterbacks.
Eli Manning has always been a class act, the ultimate teammate, who refuses to throw players and coaches under the bus, no matter how dire the circumstances.
Manning even handled the demotion with class. Although clearly shaken, his lips quivering and his eyes wet, Eli said: “I don’t like it, but it’s part of football. You handle it and I’ll do my job.”
Benching a franchise icon
So now the best quarterback in the long and storied history of the New York Football Giants, an iconic player, a guy who holds nearly every Giants passing record, has been benched by a guy who can’t coach and a GM who can’t draft talent.
In their misguided wisdom, the Giants brain trust has decided that Geno Smith gives them the best chance to win Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. Geno Smith – are you kidding me? “We’re confident that we can put a plan together to put Geno in a position to be successful and go win a game,” said McAdoo.
Good luck with that decision. Geno Smith is not the future, he’s a stop-gap measure who couldn’t make it with the Jets. Heck, at this point in the lost season it makes much more sense to go with Davis Webb, the 22-year-old rookie and third round draft pick.
The Giants have mishandled QB transitions before. They released Phil Simms after the 1993 season despite the team reaching the playoffs and winning a wild card game.
Former Giants outraged
Many former Giants have expressed outrage against the Eli benching via Twitter, including Simms, Carl Banks, Justin Tuck Plaxico Burress and David Diehl, just to name a few.
“I don’t think Eli ever envisioned, until now, playing for somebody else,” said Eli’s father and former NFL QB Archie. “That’s the love he has for the Giants. It is kind of unique and stronger than most. It’s not just the game he loves to play. He loves to play for the Giants.”
Although Eli may very well have played his last game as a Giant, there are several teams out there who would value the services of a soon-to-be 37-year-old quarterback with a penchant for winning the big game. Jacksonville, with former Giants coach Tom Coughlin now the GM, would be a good fit. How about Denver, where Eli could ride to the rescue and win a Super Bowl much like brother Peyton did several years ago. Buffalo, Miami and Arizona are all possibilities.
Payback is a bitch or so they say, and McAdoo and Reese will get theirs soon enough. Front office and coaching incompetence has earned the Giants a top five draft pick in the 2018 draft, and perhaps hope with a quarterback of the future.
Too bad Ben & Jerry won’t be around for the rebuild.
Mike Francesa of WFAN blasts the Giants decision.