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Original sin

Anderson's first miss of season proves fatal to Vikings

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Posted: Sunday January 17, 1999 11:36 PM

  Gary Anderson, 39, has been kicking in the NFL for 17 years AP

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Gary Anderson had been perfect all season long, kicking on real grass and fake grass, indoors and outdoors, perfect from all distances.

He never missed a field goal, hitting 39 straight. And he never missed an extra point, going 67-for-67. The first kicker in NFL history to go an entire season without a miss.

Until the biggest kick of his career.

Amazingly, agonizingly, the person with more field goals than any kicker in NFL history, 420 for his career, hooked one barely wide left as Minnesota closed in on a trip to the Super Bowl.

And that miss cost the Vikings their season Sunday.

"There are no words to describe how I feel," Anderson said after Atlanta beat Minnesota 30-27 in overtime in the NFC championship game. "Six inches one way or another makes a difference."

Leading 27-20, Minnesota had just held off what seemed like Atlanta's last gasp. With under five minutes to play, the Vikings could run the clock and head for the Super Bowl.

It didn't work out that way.

Minnesota moved downfield, seemingly headed toward Atlanta's end zone for one more wrapup score. The drive stalled at the 21 and out came Anderson for a 38-yard field goal.

"Gary did as he always did," coach Dennis Green said. "He tried to help our team win."

It seemed like a gimme, almost automatic for the 39-year-old kicker who's been doing this for 17 years in the NFL. Sixteen of his field goals this season had been longer than 38 yards. He had a 53-yarder last month against Jacksonville and a 50-yarder against Chicago in September.

He had kicked two against Arizona last week in the playoff opener and two more Sunday against the Falcons, the first from 29 yards and the second from 35.

In all, 46 straight field goals since his last miss of any kind -- on Dec. 15, 1997, while with San Francisco.

Anderson lined up, took his routine drop, and waited for Mike Morris to hike the ball to holder Mitch Berger. Everything seemed perfect again, except the kick.

"It went the same way as always," Berger said. "He got hit after he kicked."

By then, the ball had curled just outside of the left upright.

"I had a good stride," Anderson said. "I didn't see it because a couple of guys were on top of me after I kicked."

For a moment, it seemed the madcap Metrodome crowd did not believe the miss. The fans were cheering because, after all, an Anderson field goal was an automatic three points.

Not this time.

"Maybe in some respects that makes it more disappointing," Anderson said. "With such tremendous expectations, it makes it 10 times more disappointing."

The kick didn't miss by much, but it missed. Both officials stationed under the goalposts waved it wide.

Suddenly, Atlanta had a life. The Falcons were not about to blow it, either. Chris Chandler took them down the field for the tying TD with less than a minute to play.

So the championship game went into overtime and on their second possession, Atlanta moved downfield, heading in the same direction the Vikings were going in during the fourth quarter.

When the Falcons got close enough, coach Dan Reeves turned the game over to his kicker. Morton Andersen lined up and nailed the winning field goal.

The distance was 38 yards -- a distance the other Anderson will never forget.

 
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Falcons Postseason History
Falcons stun Vikings in overtime, advance to first Super Bowl
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Anderson recalls the fatal missed field goal (229 K)
Anderson describes the mood in the Vikings' locker room (369 K)
Anderson thought the Vikings gave Atlanta too many chances (255 K)
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