I became a Rams fan in 1986, so this game was played way before my time. However, I have a voracious interest in the glorious past of this team, so I thought I’d sit down and watch this sludgy contest from another time and seemingly another planet. Quite a different atmosphere than today’s perfectly manicured, pass-happy NFL.
After losing starting QB Fran Tarkenton to a broken leg earlier in the season, the Vikings still found themselves atop the NFC Central and headed to the playoffs for the fifth straight season. They were headed to Los Angeles to take on the Rams in the NFC Divisional round. Keep in mind, the Vikings had played the Rams earlier in the season at home before Tarkenton went down, and they got throttled 35-3.
After this game, most fans were convinced the Rams were jinxed. The Rams of the 1970s were a perennial division-winning team who always seemed to falter on the road in the postseason. However, this playoff game was thought to be contested in the friendly weather confines of the Coliseum–the team had finally acquired a playoff game on their own turf. Unfortunately, it rained for three straight days and nights, proving that the old song by Sonny and Cher, It never rains in Southern California is a blatant lie. The Coliseum had transformed into a swamp.
The Rams fell behind early as the conditions worsened throughout the game, and the mud became a major factor with Coliseum grounds crew members scrambling to make the grass playable for wide receiver Harold Jackson and the Rams’ running game of Lawrence McCutcheon and John Cappelletti. They failed horribly, which forced the team to rely more on an inexperienced passing game from (undersized?) quarterback Pat Haden. The speed advantage for the Rams was taken away and the 10 1/2 point favorite Rams were defeated 14-7.
Some fans were upset that the terribly inferior Pat Haden (14-32 130 yds, 3 int.) played the whole game while Joe Namath, in his final NFL game, picked splinters out of his ass on the bench. (There were theories that Namath had bigger hands and would be able to grip and throw the ball more accurately) Head coach Chuck “Ground Chuck” Knox, feeling the criticism, stepped down after the game and eventually became head coach for the Buffalo Bills.
The Vikings would go on to play the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game where they’d eventually lose 23-6.