Work in Sports
DENVER (Ticker) -- Gary Anderson missed a field goal in last year's NFC Championship game that cost the Minnesota Vikings a shot at the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. This afternoon, his field goal against Denver likely ended any hopes the Broncos had of repeating as champions.
Anderson's 23-yard field goal capped a 13-play, 73-yard drive in the final five minutes as Minnesota (4-4) reached the .500 mark with a 23-20 win over the Broncos. The loss dropped the two-time defending champion Broncos to 2-6. Only the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals reached the postseason after losing six of their first eight games.
Jeff George continued to spark the Minnesota offense, completing 17-of-29 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns. Cris Carter also had a big game for Minnesota, catching eight passes for 144 yards, including both touchdown tosses. He had three catches on the final drive, including a clutch 24-yarder that set up Anderson's game-winner.
"That's why he is going to the Hall of Fame," George said of Carter. "He is a guy that I have a lot of confidence in. Cris has a great feel for the open area."
"It seems like almost every game this year has been like this," Anderson said. "About halfway through the fourth quarter I'm looking up at the scoreboard and thinking I'm going to have to make that kick. You could see it coming."
Denver rallied to tie the game, knotting the contest with 5:09 left on a one-yard strike from Brian Griese to tight end Byron Chamberlain. The Broncos needed a two-point conversion and Olandis Gary bulled in for the tying points.
George took over the Minnesota 22 and found Randy Moss on a deflection for 23 yards. Two quick passes to Carter put the ball in Denver territory and a 14-yard strike to Moss just before the two-minute warning put the ball at the 28. After a run went nowhere, George found Carter for a lunging reception near the left sideline.
Minnesota tried three runs into the line to chew up the clock before Anderson came on to convert the short attempt. After becoming the first kicker in NFL history to go an entire season without a miss, Anderson shanked a 38-yard attempt late in last season's championship game. He is just 12-of-18 this season and has had three kicks blocked.
Griese finished 24-of-40 for 274 yards and a touchdown while Gary had 79 yards on 19 carries. Rod Smith hauled in seven passes for 117 yards but teammate Ed McCaffrey was limited to 18 yards on two catches because of injuries.
"After every game the competitor looks at himself critically and asks what could he have done better," Griese said. "Of course there are a lot of thing I think I could have done better. There are a lot of young guys out there but the expectations of performance is for the position and not the player."
The Broncos lost for the first time in 10 homes games against NFC opponents under Mike Shanahan while the Vikings posted their eighth win in 10 games against AFC opponents.
"Our guys feel great," Vikings coach Dennis Green said. "This is a very difficult place to play. The guys did a great job coming back, simply because of the rhythm of the game. Denver is a different style team. They have different kinds of run blocking and different schemes on defense. It took our guys a while to get accustomed to it."
"As I told our football team, I was pleased with the effort," said Denver coach Mike Shanahan. "The team fought hard. A number of guys went out and a number of guys stepped up."
Denver broke on top by taking the opening kickoff and moving 70 yards in seven plays. Gary had a 12-yard run and Griese threw a 13-yard completion to tight end Dwayne Carswell before Derek Loville broke loose for a 36-yard touchdown run.
The Broncos pushed the lead to 9-0 when defensive tackle Trevor Pryce tackled George in the end zone 4:23 into the quarter.
Denver took the free kick and cashed when Jason Elam converted a 19-yard attempt.
Minnesota finally broke through midway through the second quarter when safety Orlando Thomas returned an interception 27 yards for a score. The Vikings defense forced a three-and-out and the offense quickly capitalized as Hoard, continuing to play well for injured starter Robert Smith, ripped off two runs for a total of 80 yards.
Hoard's first run went for 27 yards but three penalties left Minnesota facing a 3rd-and-37. Hoard took a simple draw and broke free, rumbling for 53 yards. On the next play George found Carter along the right sideline for a 37-yard scoring strike.
"When you play a team like Denver that you don't see very often it takes some time to get used to," Carter said. "We persevered. We stayed together as a team."
With a 13-12 lead Minnesota went for two but George's pass came up short. After a scoreless third quarter, George and Carter hooked up again. George found Carter for 34 yards on a 3rd-and-14 play and later connected with the veteran receiver on a 16-yard toss that put the Vikings ahead 20-12.
"Cris made some great plays," Green added. "What Cris Carter does is increase the size of the field and extend it beyond the sideline and also extend the depth of the end zone. That's what makes him a Hall of Fame player. No one else has ever done that. He may be the best that has ever played the game."
"It was like the ball was hanging up there and I had all day to get to it," Carter said. "A day like today is something I'll never forget."
The Vikings have won six of the 10 all-time meetings between the teams.