Dixon critical of refs, offensive line

The current Vikings would likely get fined for criticizing the officiating in the NFC Championship Game, but former Vikings guard David Dixon is retired and doesn't have to worry about his comments hitting him in the wallet. When talking about the Vikings' last game, he was critical of the officiating and the protection given to Brett Favre.

For Vikings fans of the last two decades, the heartache debate could be a long, involved cleansing of the NFC Championship soul. Which game caused more pain for the Purple faithful – the overtime loss at home to the Atlanta Falcons in the 1998 NFC Championship Game or the overtime loss on the road to the New Orleans Saints in the 2009 NFC Championship Game?

Former Vikings guard David Dixon lived through them both – one on the field trying to protect Randall Cunningham and a first-half lead and one watching his former team struggle to keep their future Hall of Fame quarterback upright.

In 1998, the Vikings had outscored their opponents by an average of 23 points at the Metrodome, but when it came time to host the conference championship the Vikings jumped offsides four times and squandered a 20-7 second-quarter lead. Eventually, Gary Anderson's perfect regular season as a kicker turned imperfect and the Vikings lost with an overtime field goal to seal their 1998 heartache, 30-27.

Eleven years later, the venue was different, but the result was much the same. The Vikings had a chance to win it at the end of regulation, but a 12-men-in-the-huddle penalty apparently took them out of field goal position and quarterback Brett Favre forced a third-down pass across his body and into coverage. It was intercepted and the Vikings never had a chance to kick another field goal. On the first possession of overtime, it was the Saints kicking the game-winning field goal.

Asked to compare those two conference championship setbacks, Dixon focused on the modern one, where the quarterback he opposed during his 1990s battles against Green Bay was now a Minnesota Viking.

"Great defense. Hell of a leader in Brett Favre. It was just an unfortunate thing. That's my impression," Dixon said. "… Different games."

But what stood out most for the guard who spent his entire 11-year NFL career in Minnesota was the beating that Favre took and the lack of penalties called against the Saints.

"The referees took it away. It was unbelievable. I can't believe Brett Favre got hit so many times and they didn't call it. A lot of times," Dixon said.

Back in 1998, the Vikings had an impressive offensive line that featured (from left to right) Todd Steussie, Randall McDaniel, Jeff Christy, Dixon and Korey Stringer. Dixon, who started 134 games for the Vikings, wasn't too impressed with the current version of the offensive line.

"They need me back," Dixon said with a laugh. "The left side, I can't believe Bryant McKinnie and all those things (skipping the Pro Bowl). It's the same thing with the Minnesota Vikings year in and year out. It's unfortunate. On the right side, they keep repatching that side. I love Anthony Herrera; he's a good friend of mine."

Dixon, who retired following the 2004 season, helped coach at Burnsville High School for a few years following his playing days, but even those days are done for him now.

"I was helping out a little bit with Burnsville when I first came out of the NFL. I was there for like two or three years. My whole thing was to learn more than I already knew. Then when the new coach came in, I wasn't getting that so I just kind of let it be," he said. "I'm doing what I want to be doing now, which is nothing. No, I'm a stay-at-home dad. I love it. I enjoy my kids (two older girls and two younger boys). I get up at 6:30 in the morning, feed them before they go to school. The oldest is 18, the youngest is 8."

That means the oldest is old enough to remember the 1998 pain and the youngest is still old enough to try to comprehend what happened last January.

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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