Work in Sports
ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Bitter memories of last January's NFC championship game danced in the heads of the Minnesota Vikings when kicker Gary Anderson shanked a fourth-quarter field goal. Except this time, Morten Andersen missed as well.
The Vikings erupted for 17 second-quarter points and held on for a 17-14 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in a rematch of the first NFC championship overtime game since the NFL-AFL merger.
Last year, Andersen's 38-yard field goal 11:52 into overtime lifted the Falcons to a 30-27 win over the Vikings and their first trip to the Super Bowl.
However, if Anderson -- the first kicker in NFL history to complete a season without a miss -- had not shanked a 38-yard field goal left with 2:07 left in regulation, the Vikings likely would have reached Super Bowl XXXIII. The most prolific kicker in NFL history, Anderson made all 35 of his field goals during the season and added another four in the postseason.
Today, the Vikings held a 17-14 lead when Anderson hooked a 30-yard field goal left with 5:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, giving the Falcons a chance to force overtime with a field goal.
However, after the Falcons drove 58 yards to the Minnesota 22 in seven plays, Andersen shanked a 39-yard field goal to the left with 3:38 left. Andersen earlier missed a 35-yard field goal to the right in the second quarter.
"I'm very disappointed, obviously, in my performance but I realize I'm a good kicker and I'll bounce back," Andersen said.
"The kicker has to perform and I take responsibility for that."
Minnesota consumed most of the remaining time and snapped Atlanta's 10-game home winning streak.
"Two of the best kickers in the game both missed two field goals," said Falcons coach Dan Reeves. "One by them was blocked, but you know we just flat missed two. It hurts. It hurts anytime you lose, but particularly the way we lost."
Anderson entered today's game with an NFL record 40 straight field goals in the regular season, but that streak ended when his first attempt from 26 yards was blocked by Shane Dronett in the first quarter. He kicked a 36-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Although many were billing this is as a revenge game for the Vikings, coach Dennis Green and the players never bought into that.
I've never mentioned the word (revenge) one time," Green said.
"I don't believe in it."
"So we beat them, it's Week One," said Vikings running back Leroy Hoard. "If we played them 16 times in a row and beat them 16 times in a row, it wouldn't make up for last year's loss."
Similar to last year's NFC title game, the Vikings built a first-half lead and the Falcons rallied in the second half.
Except this time, the Vikings staved off Atlanta's comeback.
"It's amazing how similar it was to the last time we played them," said Vikings receiver Cris Carter. "But the January game is behind us."
The Vikings built a 20-7 lead, and held a 27-17 advantage in the fourth quarter, but the Falcons scored 10 fourth-quarter points to tie it and won the game in overtime.
Today, the Vikings stormed to a 17-0 lead in the second quarter.
Randall Cunningham hit Carter with a two-yard touchdown pass after Randy Moss drew a 52-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Ray Buchanan, Anderson kicked a 36-yard field goal and Hoard scored on a one-yard run for Minnesota.
However, the team that set an NFL record with 556 points last year failed to score in the second half.
"They just did some things that made us not look impressive," Cunningham said. "My hat is off to the defensive coordinator."
The Falcons finally broke through when Chris Chandler connected with Chris Calloway on a 23-yard TD with 43 seconds left in the half. Calloway, an offseason free agent signing, had five catches for 84 yards.
"It (the touchdown) kind of put us back in the game, but we needed more," Calloway said.
Bob Christian scored on a one-yard run with 13:18 left in the fourth quarter to pull the Falcons within 17-14.
Cunningham completed 22-of-33 passes for 184 yards and Carter had seven receptions for 70 yards. Moss, who set a rookie record and led the NFL with 17 receiving touchdowns last year, caught just three passes for 24 yards, but drew two pass interference penalties.
Minnesota held Pro Bowl back Jamal Anderson to 50 yards on 16 carries. Anderson set an NFL record with 410 carries for an NFC-high 1,846 yards last year.
"We did a good job of stopping the run," Green said. "That was the big thing for us, our defense."
Chandler was 17-of-30 for 258 yards and left the game late in the fourth quarter with a strained right hamstring.
"Hopefully, Chris will be able to go next week," Reeves said.
"We certainly don't know right now."
On the ensuing play, Cunningham threw a bomb to Moss, who was interfered with by Buchanan. After a defensive holding call on Falcons linebacker Keith Brooking and a one-yard run by Hoard to the 2, Cunningham fired a TD pass to Carter. It was Carter's 102nd career TD catch.
On the following kickoff, Tim Dwight fumbled after being hit by Robert Griffith and kicker Mitch Berger recovered at the Atlanta 21. After the Falcons defense held, Anderson kicked a 36-yard field goal.
Hoard's one-yard TD run with 1:48 left in the half capped a nine-play, 74-yard drive. Moss drew a 24-yard pass interference penalty and Carter caught a 16-yard pass to key the drive.
The Falcons drove 80 yards on five plays in just 65 seconds.
Chandler was 4-for-5 for 75 yards in the drive. Calloway caught passes of 20 and 11 yards before the touchdown.
Christian's one-yard TD in the fourth quarter capped a 10-play, 61-yard drive.