Atlanta at Minnesota

Dirty Birds flying south to Miami after stunning Vikes

Minnesota's high-powered attack goes haywire

Viking fans have mixed emotions

Chandler answers bell in final round

Falcons stop the unstoppable

Notebook: Falcons' win was for Rankin Smith

Gary Anderson explains what happened on his missed field goal.
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Randall Cunningham knows Anderson shouldn't be blamed for the loss.
 110k wav

  Monday, Jan. 18 12:14am ET
From perfect to pariah: Anderson's miss kills Vikes
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Gary Anderson had been perfect all season long, kicking on real grass and fake grass, indoors and outdoors, perfect from all distances.

 Gary Anderson
Gary Anderson dejectedly leaves the field following the Vikings' loss.

He never missed a field goal, hitting 39 straight. And he never missed an extra point, going 67-for-67. The first kicker in NFL history to go an entire season without a miss.

Until Sunday.

With Minnesota closing in on a trip to the Super Bowl, Anderson missed one.

Amazingly, agonizingly, the person with more field goals than any kicker in NFL history, 420 for his career, hooked one barely wide left and it cost the Vikings their season.

"There are no words to describe how I feel," Anderson said after Atlanta beat Minnesota 30-27 in overtime in the NFC championship game. "Six inches one way or another makes a difference."

Leading 27-20, Minnesota had just held off what seemed like Atlanta's last gasp in the NFC Championship Game. With less than five minutes to play, the Vikings could run the clock and head for the Super Bowl.

It didn't work out that way.

Minnesota moved downfield, headed inexorably it seemed toward Atlanta's end zone for one more wrapup score. The drive stalled at the 22 and out came Anderson for a 38-yard field goal.

"Gary did as he always did," coach Dennis Green said. "He tried to help our team win."

It seemed like a gimme, almost automatic for the 39-year-old kicker whose been kicking for 17 years in the NFL. He had kicked two against Arizona last week in the playoff opener and two more Sunday against the Falcons, the first from 30 yards and the second from 35.

In all, 46 straight field goals since his last miss of any kind -- on Dec. 15, 1997, while with San Francisco.

He lined up, took his routine drop, and waited for Mike Morris to hike the ball to holder Mitch Berger. Everything seemed perfect again, except the kick.

"It went the same way as always," Berger said. "He got hit after he kicked."

By then, the ball had curled just outside of the left upright.

"I had a good stride," Anderson said. "I didn't see it because a couple of guys were on top of me after I kicked."

For a moment, it seemed the madcap Metrodome crowd did not believe the miss. The fans were cheering because, after all, an Anderson field goal was an automatic three points.

Not this time.

"Maybe in some respects that makes it more disappointing," Anderson said. "With such tremendous expectations, it makes it 10 times more disappointing."

The kick didn't miss by much, but it missed. Both officials stationed under the goalposts waved it wide.

Suddenly, Atlanta had a life. The Falcons were not about to blow it, either. Chris Chandler took them down the field for the tying TD with less than a minute to play.

So the championship game went into overtime and on their second posession, Atlanta moved downfield, heading in the same direction the Vikings were going in during the fourth quarter.

When the Falcons got close enough, coach Dan Reeves turned the game over to his kicker. Morten Andersen lined up and nailed the winning field goal.

The distance was 38 yards -- a distance the other Anderson will never forget.

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