Best of the 50-year franchise

The Vikings are celebrating their 50th season, which means a lot of lists are likely to emerge from the past five decades of the franchise. We start with the top 10 Vikings teams fielded over the last 50 years.

As we draw closer to the 50th season of Vikings history, we're going to see a slew of lists and historic memories of the franchise. At Viking Update, we're no different. In the next issue of Viking Update magazine, we highlight 50 moments over the 50 years of the franchise and the 2010 season will feature a ton of looks back over the first half-century of the Vikings franchise.

With expectations high for the 2010 season, some are pondering whether it can be one of the best seasons in franchise history. However, the bar has been raised pretty high in that regard. Over the 50-year history of the franchise, there have been some excellent teams. He is our take on the top 10 teams of all-time.

10. The 2000 Vikings—The Vikings got off to a 6-0 start and, late in the season, were 11-2. They hit a three-game skid late in the season, but still advanced to the NFC Championship Game and were favored by many on the road at New York. It would be the final Vikings season for Robert Smith, Korey Stringer and John Randle, and the first for Daunte Culpepper, providing a ton of memories along the way.

9. The 1970 Vikings—The Vikings allowed just 143 points while scoring 335 and finished 12-2. They never allowed more than 20 points in a game and allowed 14 or fewer in 12 of them. They accomplished this despite a patchwork offense that had Gary Cuozzo and Bob Lee as their quarterbacks and Dave Osborn as the primary running back. They would lose their first home game of the season in the playoffs against San Francisco by a score of 17-14, denying them a chance to return to back-to-back Super Bowls.

8. The 1987 Vikings—A season that looked like it might be in the toilet after the Vikings strike team went 0-3 when the scabs were playing, Jerry Burns and his team rallied upon their return, winning five of their next six games to get back into contention. While the team finished just 8-7, they made one of the most improbable playoff runs in NFL history, going on the road and pounding heavy favorites New Orleans 44-10 and San Francisco 36-24 before falling to Washington 17-10 in the NFC title game. Darren Nelson has yet to be forgiven by some fans.

7. The 1974 Vikings—In his second season, Chuck Foreman became the top all-purpose back in the league, rushing for 777 yards, catching 53 passes for 586 yards and scoring 15 touchdowns. The Vikings finished 10-4 and rolled through the Cardinals and Rams in the playoffs, avenging a regular-season loss to the Rams with a 14-10 playoff win. They would lose to the Steelers in the Super Bowl, denying their legacy and helping to start the process of anointing Pittsburgh as the Team of the ‘70s.

6. The 1976 Vikings—The last Super Bowl team the Vikings had, the team rolled through an 11-2-1 season, losing their two games by a total of five points on late-game touchdowns. That team won eight games by double digits, including both playoff wins over the Redskins and Rams, only to fall to the Raiders 32-14 in the Super Bowl. Who knew that, 35 years later, the Vikings wouldn't make it back to the big dance?

5. The 1973 Vikings—The Vikings started the season 9-0 before losing to a hapless Atlanta team on Monday night – with former Viking Bob Lee at quarterback – and getting stunned by the equally-hapless Bengals 27-0 two weeks later. The team finished 12-2, holding opponents to nine points or fewer in seven games and putting up a lot of points with Tarkenton, John Gilliam and a rookie named Chuck Foreman leading the way. These Vikings posted a huge 27-10 win on the road at Dallas to advance to the Super Bowl, but fell to Miami 24-7 for their second of four Super Bowl losses.

4. The 2009 Vikings—Brett Favre may have only been in Minnesota for one year, but he put his stamp on the franchise with a 12-4 season in which the Vikings pounded the Packers twice and outplayed the Saints in the Super Bowl. If not for a slew of critical fumbles, they would have met the Colts in the Super Bowl – something they hope to rectify in 2010.

3. The 1975 Vikings—What many view as the franchise's most dominant team, the Vikings outscored their opponents 377-180, winning nine of their 12 games by double digits and losing their two games by a total of eight points. Foreman led the way with a franchise record 22 touchdowns. They seemed destined for a third straight trip to the Super Bowl, but the fabled Hail Mary pass by Roger Staubach brought a quick and painful end to that season.

2. The 1998 Vikings—The most incredible scoring season in NFL history at the time, the Vikings score 556 points (35 points a game), winning seven games by 20 points or more and their only loss coming to a Tampa Bay team that didn't turn the ball over or punt, yet won by just three points. It seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Super Bowl drought would end that year, but, after not missing a field goal all season, Gary Anderson pushed a game-clinching field goal wide and the Atlanta Falcons won 30-27 in overtime to break the hearts of Vikings fans everywhere.

1. The 1969 Vikings—The gold standard of Vikings teams, after losing 24-23 to Tarkenton and the Giants in the season opener, the "40-for-60" Vikings rolled off 12 straight wins, the single-season record for consecutive wins. Over the next 13 games, the Vikings didn't allow more than 13 points. The front four, known as the Purple People Eaters, combined for 46 sacks. The team rolled through the playoffs to win their only NFL Championship, but got overpowered and outmanned by the upstart Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV. It started of a run of Super Bowl futility, but, based purely on the numbers, the 1969 team is the most dominant Vikings team in franchise history.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for 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.

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