The Minnesota Vikings have spent much of 2015 dispelling the myths and exorcising the demons of seasons past. They’ve been taking away the numbers that have dogged them for years, like beating division teams on the road and winning away from home on a consistent basis as they hadn’t done previously.
But with the Vikings 20-10 win over Atlanta Sunday at the Georgia Dome put them in truly rarified air in terms of being road warriors, winning a fourth straight road game for the first time in a long time.
“It was important to win this week regardless of what happened last week,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “This was a big game for us because we basically have a six-game season going in now and we go on the road, with guys injured and I don’t know why but this was a very important game for me to come back, fight, scratch and get to 8-3 was great.”
The last time the Vikings won four straight road games was in 1998, when they did that before losing to Tampa Bay – their only loss prior to the NFC Championship Game that year. But, even then, it was only a four-game road winning streak that legendary Vikings team was able to string together.
The reality is that four-game road winning streaks are extremely rare for anyone, including the Vikings. That feat has been accomplished just seven other times in the 55-year history of the franchise – the 1998, 1992, 1983 and 1975 teams strung together four-game road winning streaks and three teams put together five-game road winning streaks, in 1974, 1971 and 1969.
It should be noted that the playing field of the NFL changed dramatically when full free agency became the field-tilter of the NFL, where teams could no longer stockpile talent forever and ownership had the jackboot of control over player movement.
An argument can be made that only the 1998 Vikings and 2015 Vikings are on equal footing. The first five of the other seven teams (1969, 1971, 1974, 1975 and 1983) weren’t talent-strapped by free agency. If you had a strong scouting department, you could stay dominant for years, which helped explain that, for more than a decade, you could accurately predict six of the eight playoff teams every year – Minnesota, Dallas and Los Angeles in the NFC and Miami, Pittsburgh and Oakland in the AFC.
Even the 1992 Vikings that accomplished the streak did it when there was minimalized free agency – the Plan B era where only overpriced veterans and end-of-the-roster guys were available for other teams to bid on.
There shouldn’t be too much put into the fact that the Vikings are 8-3. There is still a lot of work to do and plenty of tough games facing the Vikings from now until their regular-season finale, but the Vikings have placed themselves in elite company.
Of the other seven teams that accomplished what the 2015 Vikings have, six of them made the playoffs (only the 1983 team didn’t). All six of them hosted at least one playoff game. Three of those six advanced to the NFC/NFL Championship Game and two of those three went to the Super Bowl.
It may seem a bit premature to start dropping that sort of comparison on the 2015 Vikings, but the fact of the matter is pretty clear. Only seven other teams in franchise history were able to be road warriors on the par with the 2015 Vikings and all but one of them played at home in the postseason. With only two road games remaining of the final five games on the Vikings schedule, the team is guaranteed to finish no worse than .500 on the road with the chance to make history – potentially knocking the Cardinals out of the first-round bye position and taking out the Packers at Lambeau Field in January.
“If you play better than the other team it doesn’t matter where you play,” Zimmer said after the latest road win. “I think we have a lot of poise. There were a lot of things that happened today, penalties that could have rattled us, but I think we played with poise and that offensively we did a good job. We controlled the clock, we moved the ball, I thought we did a decent job on third downs today.”
The other teams that were able to accomplish what the Vikings have this season all used their road prowess as a springboard to hosting playoff games and letting the chips fall where they may. The Vikings had a crushing setback against the Packers a week ago Sunday, but with the events that transpired in Week 12, the Vikes are back in the driver’s seat and looking to repeat history the way that their predecessors did when they won four straight on the road.