For two teams that aren’t in the same division, the Vikings and Giants have an intriguing history. They’ve met 30 times since the Vikings entered the league 60 years ago, with three of those games coming in the postseason.
The Vikings lead the overall series 18-12, but the Giants are 2-1 when it matters most. Most recently (and by “recently” I mean 22 years ago), New York obliterated the Vikings in the 2000 NFC Championship, 41-0.
Their three playoff games — all of which were played at Giants Stadium — happened between 1993 and 2000, all with Dennis Green coaching the Vikings. In the first meeting, a windy day that happened in the wild-card round, the Giants won the toss and elected to kick, in the days before a team could defer. They wanted the wind, and it worked.
The Vikings punted after the first drive, the Giants got a fairly short field, and they scored a field goal, taking a 3-0 lead. By halftime, the Vikings led 10-3.
To start the second half, Minnesota opted for the ball. The Giants kicked again with the wind at their back. The Vikings punted. Running back Rodney Hampton busted a 51-yard touchdown run, the game was tied, and eventually the Giants would win, 17-10.
Four years later, the Vikings trailed 19-3 at the half. After a controversial decision to punt late in the fourth quarter while trailing 22-13, the Vikings somehow scored 10 points in the final minute and a half to win the game. All in all, the comeback included a blocked punt, a questionable 30-yard touchdown catch from receiver Jake Reed at the back of the end zone (there was no replay review available in 1997), and the recovery of an onside kick by receiver Chris Walsh.
Given that there were rampant rumors Green would be fired if the Vikings had lost in the wild-card round for the fifth time in five tries, there’s a decent chance that, but for the comeback, Green wouldn’t have been in place to draft receiver Randy Moss just a few months later.
With Moss making the Vikings into an elite team, Minnesota returned to Giants Stadium in 2000 for the NFC Championship game. It started poorly and stayed that way, with the Giants scoring on the opening drive, Minnesota kick returner Troy Walters failing to field the ensuing kickoff, the Giants recovering, and the Giants scoring again, and yada yada yada it was 34-0 at halftime and 41-0 when it ended.
The Vikings suspected chicanery during the game, in the form of eavesdropping on headset communications. That never went anywhere.
Today, they’ll meet again in the playoffs, for the first time since 4-10 and for the first time in Minnesota. Three weeks ago, the Vikings won at U.S. Bank Stadium with a 61-yard walk-off field goal, 27-24.
The Vikings are favored to win by three. Many think the Giants will prevail. If the Vikings do, they’ll get the same assignment that they did after beating the Giants 25 years ago — a ticket to San Francisco for a date with the second-seeded 49ers.
That’s an uphill climb for the only team in the entire seven-team NFC playoff field that has never won a Super Bowl.
“It’s going to be hard for us to win a Super Bowl in Minnesota,” Moss said after the blowout in New York from 22 years ago. “I don’t want to say Minnesota will never win a Super Bowl, but it is going to be hard.”
This year, it definitely won’t be easy.