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Dashed Dreams: the 1969 Minnesota Vikings



History remembers the victors much better than it does the losers. the teams that win it all are instantly immortalized as one of the sport's greatest while the loser can only stand on the sidelines watching as their legacy is forever tarnished all the while thinking: "Was all that work wasted?". Sometimes they find redemption, but for the most part, the losers of the Super Bowl never return. But this article is not about what happened before or after the Super Bowl. Instead, this is the story of a single, forgotten team: the 1969 Minnesota Vikings.


The Lead-Up


It had been a whirlwind first decade of existence for the Minnesota Vikings. Born in 1961, they were originally renegades, starting fights all over the field and rarely winning. They were an organization without direction until Bud Grant came over from Canada in 1967.



He immediately began to change the chaotic culture of the franchise, bringing with him key players such has Joe Kapp from the CFL and Gene Washington, a fleet-footed receiver who was a first round pick from Michigan State in 1967. They joined a talented roster that included one of the best defensive lines in the NFL and a talented running back in Dave Osborn. In that first year together, Osborn earned second-team All Pro honors,


In 1968, the Vikings climbed out of the cellar, going from worst to first in their division and earning their first winning season. Although they lost the Divisional playoff game to the Colts, they knew that brighter days were ahead.


1969



The promising season got off to a rocky start in Yankee Stadium as the Vikings fell by a single point against their former franchise quarterback Fran Tarkenton. Still, there was a bright spot in the disappointing 24-23 loss as Gene Washington caught seven passes for 152 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown from Gary Cuozzo in the second quarter.


All the loss did was awaken a sleeping giant. The following week, Dave Osborn got the Vikings on the baord first on an 18-yard catch and run from Joe Kapp. Gene Washington followed that up with an 83-yard touchdown reception along with a 42-yarder in the third quarter, fueling a 52-14 thrashing of the once-mighty Colts.


The following week against the Packers, Osborn's three-yard dash into the end zone extended their lead to 13-0 in an ultimate 19-7 triumph. At Chicago, the Vikings flexed their defensive muscles in a 31-0 thrashing while Dave Osborn rushed past the Bears for a 58-yard touchdown run on his way to a 15 carry, 106 yard performance.


Victories against the Cardinals (27-10), Loins (24-10) and Bears (31-14), only brought the Vikings closer to their long-sought first title. At first glance, their game against the Browns should have been a dogfight. Instead it was a slaughter as the Vikings ran away with the 51-3 victory.



After such an astonishing win over one of the premier teams in the league, the Vikings fell back to earth the following week. the Green Bay Packers were an aging bunch, yet they still had a veteran's wile to scare a younger, more dominant team straight. The game was a defensive slugfest with the Packers carrying a 7-3 advantage into the half. But the Vikings fierce defense shut out Green Bay in the second half and their offense did just enough to eke out two more field goals in the 9-7 squeaker.


Paul Krause intercepted the Steelers the following week and took it back 77 yards for the game's first points. From then on, the points seemed to snowball in the Vikings' favor as they went on to beat Pittsburgh 52-14. The Vikings continued their rampage the next week, beating Detroit on Thanksgiving 27-0 and cruising to a 20-13 win over the Rams in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.


In the penultimate game of the regular season, the Vikings once again had to dig deep to gut out another hard fought victory. Despite playing in favorably snowy conditions against the warm weathered 49ers, the Vikings found themselves trailing the woeful squad from the Golden State 7-3 in the fourth quarter.


With their backs against the wall and their nine game winning streak threatening to be snapped, Gene Washington saved the day again, catching a pass from Joe Kapp and taking it to the house 52 yards down the field. With the division wrapped up, their 10-3 loss to the lowly Falcons the next week was merely a formality as the Vikings rested many of their starters. They had bigger things on their minds.


The Playoffs



It is well stated that the playoffs are a new season, that every team has a shot at the title. Entering the 1969 NFL playoffs, the Vikings had recently enjoyed a 10-game winning streak, feeling an air of invincibility for much of the year. They couldn't lose.


Or could they? In the battle of two of the most storied defensive lines in NFL history, the Rams gave the Vikings all that they could handle, taking a six-point lead into the final quarter.


Then Joe Kapp took over. Facing a relentless Fearsome Foursome pass rush, he led a long drive that culminated in him running into the end zone from the two-yard line. Vikings defensive end Carl Eller forced a safety on the ensuing drive and Minnesota escaped with a 23-20 win.


The final NFL Championship Game ever played was anticlimactic compared to the week before. It was a total team effort as the Vikings shutout the Browns until the fourth quarter while their offense poured it on, with Joe Kapp seizing the moment on a 75-yard touchdown strike to Gene Washington and running one in for himself as well. With the decisive 27-7 victory in hand, the Vikings left Minneapolis's Metropolitan Stadium with their first league title and were on their way to New Orleans for the Super Bowl.


Super Bowl IV



The Vikings were good. Very good. They were the NFL champs for a reason. But going into Super Bowl IV, they faced one of the very best teams in all of football, the Kansas City Chiefs. Ever since they lost to the Packers in the first Super Bowl, the Chiefs had dreamt of redemption.


While both teams were excellent, the Chiefs appeared better suited for the affair from the start, lining up in a litany of formations and running so many stunts and plays that were far and away superior compared to anything the NFL had to offer at the time.


The Vikings once-potent running game was rendered useless against the Chiefs' gigantic defensive line and their apt passing game was swatted away again and again against the Chiefs' fleet of agile corners. Possession after possession, the Vikings tried and failed to score, entering the half down by 16. Although Dave Osborn managed to score on a four-yard scamper in the third quarter, it was too little, too late. As Otis Taylor caught the ball, shook off the defender and ran towards the end zone 46 yards away, the Vikings saw their title hopes slip away from their grasp.


The Vikings lost 23-7.



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