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 35 straight. And he never missed an extra point, going 59-for-59. The first kicker in NFL history to go an entire season without a miss.
With Minnesota closing in on a trip to the Super Bowl, Anderson missed one.
Amazingly, agonizingly, the person with more field goals than any kicker in NFL history, 420 for his career, hooked one barely wide left and it cost the Vikings their season.
Leading 27-20, Minnesota had just held off what seemed like Atlanta's last gasp in the NFC championship game. 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, headed inexorably it seemed toward Atlanta's end zone for one more wrapup score. The drive stalled at the 22 and out came Anderson for a 38-yard field goal.
It seemed like a gimme, almost automatic for the 39-year-old placekicker whose been
| Anderson misses a 38-yard field goal against the Falcons late in the NFC title game. It was Anderson's first miss of any kind this season. (AP) |
He 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. This time, it curled just outside of the left upright.
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 posession, Atlanta moved dwnfield, 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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