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NFL Recap (Minnesota-Tennessee)

Posted: Sat December 26, 1998 at 6:29 p.m. EST


NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Ticker) -- The 1998 Minnesota Vikings punctuated the season as the highest-scoring team in NFL history and as the third club to finish 15-1.

To make history, the Vikings relied on Pro Bowlers Randall Cunningham, Randy Moss, Cris Carter and Gary Anderson to lead them to a 26-16 victory over the Tennessee Oilers.

"A 15-1 record is awesome, and Dennis Green did an absolutely great job of coaching during the regular season and preseason," said Cunningham, who signed a five-year extension two days ago.

After being held to just a safety and pair of field goals in the first half, Cunningham hit Moss with a five-yard touchdown and connected with Carter on a 38-yard scoring play in a 15-point third quarter for Minnesota.

"I wouldn't say we were concerned with how we played in the first half, but we came out in the third quarter and made the adjustments we needed to make," said Carter, who moved into sole possession of second place all-time with his 101st career TD catch.

The Vikings needed just 12 points to break the NFL's single-season scoring record of 541 held by the 1983 Washington Redskins. After trailing 13-8 at halftime, the Vikings officially eclipsed the Redskins on Moss' touchdown with 9:02 left in the third quarter. Minnesota finished the season with 556 points, an average of 34.8 per game.

Cunningham played the whole way with a broken bone in his non-throwing hand. After a shaky first half, he was brilliant in the second half, completing 16-of-18 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Cunningham finished 23-of-35 for 235 yards.

Anderson had three field goals and an extra point to become the NFL's first ever perfect kicker. He also set a single-season record for points by a kicker with 164, breaking the mark of 161 by Mark Moseley of the '83 Redskins. Anderson converted 35-of-35 field goals and all 59 extra points.

"My lineman, my staff and the whole coaching staff, I could have never done it without them," said Anderson. "I'm just so excited because of the pressure during the last month just kept building and building."

"We are extremely proud of Gary Anderson," said Vikings coach Dennis Green. "The first time in the history of the game -- a perfect season, perfect on field goals, perfect on PAT's. He is a big addition to our team."

Lurking in the shadow of the Denver Broncos throughout the year, the Vikings closed the year with eight straight wins and became the first team in 13 years to complete a season with a 15-1 record. Minnesota's lone loss was at Tampa Bay, 27-24, on November 1st.

"It probably won't hit me until April that we had such a great season," said Vikings Pro Bowl defensive tackle John Randle. "We have bigger goals than 15-1, though. We are not too concerned with the Super Bowl, but are focusing in on the playoffs."

The Broncos grabbed the national spotlight when they started 13-0 this year to threaten the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the NFL's only unbeaten, untied team, but Denver has lost its last two games.

The 1984 San Francisco 49ers and the 1985 Chicago Bears were the only teams to complete a 15-1 regular season. Both went on to win the Super Bowl.

"We're only the third team in history to do that (go 15-1), and hopefully we can go to the playoffs and continue our success," said Moss. "It really doesn't mean much until we reach the top."

Minnesota will open the playoffs on the weekend of January 9-10.

"We're going into the playoffs with the best team we have ever taken to the playoffs in the last six years," said Green, who is 1-5 in five previous trips to the playoffs with the Vikings.

This was the last game for the Oilers (8-8), who will be known as the Tennessee Titans in 1999. A crowd of 41,121 attended the Oilers' last game at Vanderbilt Stadium. Tennessee will play at a new stadium near the Cumberland River in downtown Nashville in 1999.

"There was a lot of emotion," said Oilers owner Bud Adams, who founded the team in 1959. "I picked the name in 1959, that's a lot of time and memories. We're ready to start our new era as the Titans and ready to go forward."

The Oilers completed their third straight .500 season under coach Jeff Fisher and last enjoyed a winning season in 1993, when they were located in Houston.

"Our expectation was to finish up with a winning record," said Fisher. "We are disappointed that we were not able to accomplish that today. We played hard and we played with emotion today. This was a good game, an exciting game against the elite of the NFL. We were able to play with them for awhile, which is reminiscent of our season."

Al Del Greco kicked three field goals and Eddie George scored on a two-yard run for the Oilers. Del Greco has converted 17 straight field goals and matched the AFC single-season record of 36 field goals set by Cary Blanchard in 1996.

Tennessee's Steve McNair completed 16-of-33 passes for 261 yards, but was just 6-of-16 in the second half. He reached the 3,000-yard plateau for the first time in his career, finishing the season with 3,228 yards.

The Vikings defense put up the first points when Oilers quarterback Steve McNair was whistled for intentional grounding in the end zone 4:05 into the game.

Del Greco kicked a 36-yard field goal with 3:27 left in the first quarter to cap an 11-play, 61-yard drive which lasted nearly seven minutes.

Anderson's first field goal of the game, a 39-yarder seven seconds into the second quarter, put Minnesota back ahead, 5-3. A 27-yard run by Robert Smith and a 13-yard pass from Cunningham to Matthew Hatchette set up the field goal.

But a 33-yard field goal by Del Greco and George's touchdown built a 13-5 lead for the Oilers.

Minnesota then put together a 12-play, 68-yard drive which resulted in a 23-yard field goal by Anderson with 14 seconds left in the half. Cunningham hit Hatchette with two passes for 41 yards to key the drive.

The Vikings opened the third quarter with a nine-play, 76-yard drive, which was aided by a 32-yard pass interference call on cornerback Denard Walker against Moss. After the penalty, Cunningham went back to Moss for a five-yard TD to put Minnesota ahead, 14-13. Moss then made a one-handed catch on the two-point conversion over Walker to give the Vikings a three-point lead.

Tennessee responded in an 11-play scoring drive which resulted in a 45-yard field goal by Del Greco, tying the game at 16-16 with 4:07 left in the quarter.

The Vikings came right back with a six-play, 79-yard drive in less than three minutes. Carter raced by cornerback Darryll Lewis and caught a 38-yard touchdown to cap the drive and give Oakland the lead for good at 23-16 with 1:18 left in the quarter.

Carter finished with six catches for 78 yards and Moss had five receptions for 32 yards.

The Vikings also broke the NFL record for most touchdown receptions by a receiving duo with 28 by Moss (17) and Carter (11). The previous records were set by San Francisco's Jerry Rice (22) and Dwight Clark (5) or Mike Wilson (5) in 1987. The 49ers' duo of Rice (17) and John Taylor (10) also posted 27 in 1989.

Anderson added a 30-yard field goal with 63 seconds left in the game after Tennessee turned it over on downs deep in its own territory.

© 1998 Sportsticker Enterprises, LP

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