One of John Randle's favorite Metrodome moments involved Chris Walsh running around the locker room before a game telling teammates – or anyone that would listen, really – that he couldn't be blocked.
Walsh was a wide receiver who joined the Vikings in 1994 after two seasons with the Buffalo Bills. But Walsh's biggest impact was on special teams as a leader and captain that inspired others with his blue-collar work ethic.
The ability to adapt became crucial. As a receiver, it was tough to break into a regular role on offense with Cris Carter and Jake Reed on the team. It became even more difficult when Randy Moss joined in 1998. But Walsh enjoyed the ride that the 1990s Vikings provided for him and, in part, because of him.
"We won a lot of games during that time period with Denny Green. There's a lot of really good memories. The obvious one is 1998," Walsh said. "We were so good and things just kind of fell into place. It was Randy's rookie year and Cris was right at the peak of his game and Jake Reed had four straight 1,000-yard seasons. And Robert Smith and (Randall) Cunningham had just got hot. Everything just kind of clicked that year."
Until the NFC Championship Game.
The Vikings were riding high through a 15-1 regular season and after their dominating playoff win over the Arizona Cardinals. It fell apart with an unfortunate amount of injuries and heavy dose of ensuing ineffectiveness against the Atlanta Falcons the following week.
"That year, obviously it was a bitter ending to that year, but it was such a fun year and it just seemed like we were destined to go to the Super Bowl that year," Walsh said. "Every week we'd win by 40 points. You were like, alright. And the next week the same thing and you just felt like every game, no matter who it was, we were going to win. That was a really special year where things just kind of clicked."
Walsh mostly made his mark on special teams, where he earned captain's status. But he also became an integral part of the wide receivers room that featured plenty of strong personalities in Moss, Carter, Reed and David Palmer in 1998. Moss, Carter and Reed earned the nickname "Three Deep."
"We were talking about that earlier: ‘Yeah, Three Deep.' I'm like, ‘Yeah, me and Jake and Cris Carter. Wait. Oh, Moss?' Yeah, it was great," Walsh said upon his return to Minnesota to be honored as part of the Vikings' All-Metrodome team for his special teams contributions. "I was in Buffalo my first two years and I was with Andre Reed, James Lofton, Billy Brooks and Don Beebe. Then I come here and it's Randy and Cris and Jake – great players. I was very fortunate to be surrounded by some great receivers. That makes me more of a third-down guy. It was super competitive."
The Vikings lost only one game in the 1998 regular season, at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game in which the Vikings they never punted – a strange loss indeed. But they were especially dominant in the Metrodome, where they won by an average of 35-12 in their unbeaten home games during that 1998 regular season.
"I felt like it was big. Everyone talks about Seattle right now as the loudest stadium and it used to be the Chiefs back when I was playing," Walsh said. "We were so loud in this stadium here in '98 especially – I think we were pumping music in there through the speakers and all that stuff – but it was a huge advantage.
"Teams hated coming to play up here because it was so loud. We felt as though we had that 12th man deal that people talk about. It was so loud, it was great. Teams couldn't get their offensive plays called because it was so loud. I felt we definitely had an advantage."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Metrodome memories: Chris Walsh
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