Morten Andersen of the Atlanta Falcons met Gary Anderson of the Minnesota Vikings at midfield before their teams' meeting today, and the two place kickers talked about fly-fishing and, of course, a missed field goal try.
Specifically, the one Anderson missed late in the fourth quarter of last season's NFC championship game, which the Falcons eventually won in overtime on a field goal by Andersen.
"I didn't talk to him last year after the one he missed, so I wanted to tell him I felt for him that day," Andersen said. "Maybe he felt a little bit for me today. I felt for me today."
That's because Andersen missed a potentially tying 39-yard field goal try with 3 minutes 38 seconds remaining, helping the Vikings defeat the Falcons, 17-14, before a sellout crowd of 71,228 at the Georgia Dome.
After the miss by Andersen, who is second in NFL history with 401 career field goals, the Vikings drove from their 29-yard line to the Falcons 12 before giving up the ball on downs with two seconds left. That was just enough time for Atlanta to try a desperation pass that failed.
And, indeed, Anderson did have sympathy for Andersen.
"They're never automatic," said Anderson, who has made an NFL-record 421 field goals. "Sometimes the fans may think they're automatic, but there's a lot of things going on out there that can go wrong."
He and Andersen proved that today by combining to miss four of five field goal tries. Anderson made a 36-yarder, but a 26-yard try was blocked and he sent a 30-yarder wide. In addition to the 39-yard try, which was wide left, Andersen missed a 35-yarder wide right.
But their performances were emblematic of the play today by teams that went a combined 29-3 during the 1998 regular season.
Atlanta, which led the NFL in turnover differential last season, committed three turnovers and couldn't generate the same punishing ground game that carried the team to the Super Bowl last season. Jamal Anderson (1,846 yards in 1998) gained just 50 yards on 16 carries.
Minnesota, meanwhile, got just one big play from star wide receiver Randy Moss, and it wasn't even on a completed pass. Moss so badly beat cornerback Ray Buchanan on a deep pattern early in the second quarter that Buchanan had to grab Moss, which gave the Vikings a first down on the Atlanta 6. Other than that, Moss was quiet with three receptions for just 24 yards.
Minnesota scored all 17 points in the first half. The first seven came three plays after Buchanan interfered with Moss. Randall Cunningham zipped a pass to wide receiver Cris Carter in the back of the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Falcons' Tim Dwight tried to hurdle a pile, was hit and fumbled. Five plays later, Anderson kicked a 36-yard field goal to make it 10-0 with 10:23 left in the second quarter.
Minnesota came back later in the quarter with a 74-yard drive capped by Leroy Hoard's one-yard touchdown run for a 17-0 lead with 1:48 remaining in the first half.