Joe Kapp and Bud Grant — Photo: Pioneer Press

It Was a Sad Ending for the ’69 Vikings

From the late 1960s through the late 1970s, the Vikings’ storyline was great promise followed by bitter disappointment. It all started in 1969.

In 1961, the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings were born in expansion. Under the direction of Head Coach Norm Van Brocklin, they achieved a winning record in just their fourth season, going 8–5–1 in 1964. But their winning ways didn’t last long. The following season they finished 7–7. They were 4–9–1 in 1966 and decided to let Coach Van Brocklin go.

To replace him, in 1967, the Vikings hired Bud Grant, a coach who had achieved great success in the Canadian Football League. But their record didn’t get any better–Minnesota only won three games.

Alan Page (photo, YouTube)

But despite the poor start, the future looked bright. The Vikings drafted what would be two future Hall of Fame players in defensive tackle Alan Page (1967) and offensive tackle Ron Yary (1968). They also acquired QB Joe Kapp, who was an eight-year CFL veteran.

Things began to click. In 1968, under Kapp’s fiery leadership, the Vikings finished 8–6 and made the playoffs (losing to the Colts 24–14).

With continued draft success (guard Ed White came in 1969), the team had high hopes for the 1969 season. The season didn’t start as they had hoped, dropping the season opener to the New York Giants with former Viking, Fran Tarkenton, at the helm.

But that loss didn’t shake the team’s confidence. Minnesota came back strong in Week 2 with a convincing 52–14 victory over the same team–Baltimore–that had beaten them just nine months earlier. QB Joe Kapp, who didn’t play against the Giants (knee injury), threw seven touchdown passes against the Colts.

Then, Minnesota went on to win its next five games–convincingly, too–including a Week 4 shutout of the Bears. After a Week 8 blasting of the playoff-bound Browns (51–3), the Vikings stood 7–1, and the League took notice.

1969 defensive front four. L to R, Jim Marshall, Alan Page, Gary Larsen and Carl Eller (AP photo)

After squeaking by the Packers, 9–7, in Week 9, the Vikings demolished the Steelers, 52–14, in Week 10, and shutout the Lions (27–0) the following week. With two more wins against the Rams and 49ers, Minnesota had won 12 consecutive games–a streak that ended in the season finale against the Falcons.

But Coach Grant wasn’t concerned about the meaningless loss to the Falcons. The Vikings were ranked #1 on defense, and in six games, they held opponents to seven points or less with two shutouts. For the season, they allowed just 133 points. On offense, Minnesota scored a whopping 379 points, and they scored +50 points in three games.

Now, it was off to the playoffs.

On December 27, the Vikings defeated the LA Rams 23–20 in a hard-fought game, and the win earned them the right to play in what would be the NFL’s final championship game (the NFL-AFL merger took place the following season). On January 4, 1970, Minnesota beat the Browns by twenty points to qualify for Super Bowl IV.

Their opponent was the AFL champion, Kansas City Chiefs. Under the leadership of the indomitable Hank Stram, KC was on a roll–winning three AFL Championships and appearing in the first Super Bowl. In 1969, the Chiefs finished the regular season with an 11–3 record, and they got to the Super Bowl by defeating the defending Super Bowl Champ New York Jets and the always-tough Oakland Raiders.

But as good as 1969 was to the Chiefs, it paled in comparison to the season the Vikings had. Minnesota had such great balance, and the stats showed they were superior to the Chiefs on both sides of the ball.

But the game is played on the field. The heavily-favored Vikings were down 16–0 before they got on the scoreboard. It was too little too late, and the Chiefs went on to win the game, 23–7.

Just like the 1968 Colts the year before, the 1969 Vikings’ brilliant season ended with a stunning defeat–losing the one game that mattered most.

As history would have it, the 1970 Super Bowl was Joe Kapp’s final game for the Vikings. Minnesota’s solid play would continue, as would their poor Super Bowl record. The Vikings appeared in three more Super Bowls–and they lost all three, the last in 1977.

Topps Football Cards

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I grew up in Northern NJ. I grew up in the 1970s. I was always a big sports fan. I enjoy writing about old school sports and weightlifting.

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Mark Morthier — Old School Sports

Mark Morthier — Old School Sports

I grew up in Northern NJ. I grew up in the 1970s. I was always a big sports fan. I enjoy writing about old school sports and weightlifting.

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