The Game Before the Money Podcast shared some of the greatest NFL season openers, including the first game in Minnesota Vikings history— in Episode 29 of the football history podcast.
Minnesota Vikings Had AFL Roots
In 1961, Week One of the NFL season marked the first game in Minnesota Vikings franchise history. The Vikings have some AFL roots. The original investors in the Minnesota Vikings were initially granted an AFL franchise. However, the NFL countered by offering them an NFL franchise. That AFL franchise was later awarded to Oakland and became the Raiders.
Sports Magic in the Midwest
The Vikings opened their franchise history at home in Metropolitan Stadium against the Chicago Bears. The Vikings-Bears game was played on the same day that Roger Maris hit a 12th inning, game-winning home run for his 58th home run of the season while chasing Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record. All kinds of sports magic floated around the Midwest that afternoon.Embed from Getty Images
Vikings Upset Bears in First Franchise Game
The Vikings defense pulled off four interceptions and forced five turnovers. On offense, the Vikings had some rookie kid from Georgia playing quarterback. His name was Fran Tarkenton, and he threw four touchdown passes that day. He also ran for a touchdown, setting the stage for his Hall of Fame career.
Tarkenton’s first touchdown pass was the first-ever touchdown in team history, fittingly scored by Bob Schnelker, the team’s future offensive coordinator. Future Hall of Famer Hugh McElhenny also caught a touchdown pass from Tarkenton that afternoon, and Minnesota upset Chicago 37-13 in the first ever game in Vikings history.
That was a huge surprise, but Norm Van Brocklin, who was the Vikings first head coach had a history of some opening day magic.
After opening day, however, the Vikings’ opening week magic wore off. Minnesota lost their next seven games and finished 3-11. The Bears finished at a very respectable 8-6 that year.
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