McDaniel’s path to the end zone

McDaniel’s path to the end zone

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Great players defined by Great Games.

A big-time performance in a playoff game is just one unit of measure that helps a player earn a bronze bust in Canton. Our coverage of the 2009 NFL Playoffs includes weekly flashbacks to spectacular games recorded by members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Class of 2009 enshrinee Randall McDaniel was an instant hit in the NFL. The Minnesota Vikings’ first-round draft pick out of Arizona State meshed immediately with the team’s high-powered offense.

NFC Wild-Card Game Fact
Randall McDaniel was an integral part in the Vikings setting the record for most pass completions and attempts ever in an NFC Wild-Card Game. He protected Vikings passers as they collectively completed 33 of 61 throws against the Chicago Bears in 1994.

As a rookie, he played in all 16 games and started at left guard beginning with the second game of the regular season. His effective play earned him many accolades including All-Rookie honors from UPI and the Pro Football News. He also was named second-team All-NFC after helping the Vikings to an 11-5 record and a wild-card berth in the playoffs that season.

But, the regular season is one thing and the playoffs are another. The Vikings entered the Wild-Card game at home against the Los Angeles Rams with much of the media focusing on the fact that Minnesota lacked a big-time rushing attack. Detractors pointed out that the team featured a pair of runners, Allen Rice and Alfred Anderson, who were less than star caliber.

Opinions began to change quickly in this contest. Minnesota’s Joey Browner picked off the first of two Rams passes in the first quarter to give the Vikings the ball at their own 27-yard-line. The team drove downfield and faced a third-and-six at the 7-yard-line. The Rams defense expected a pass but the Vikings handed the ball to Anderson who followed his rookie guard around the right side. McDaniel flattened Rams’ linebacker Kevin Greene to give Anderson a wide open lane to the end zone. The touchdown not only capped an impressive 73-yard scoring drive to put the Vikings out in front, 7-0, and set the tone for the day.

Rice and Anderson ended up the stars of the day as the backfield duo led Minnesota to a comfortable 28-17 win. Rice had his biggest day as a Viking to that point when he gained 79 yards on 17 carries and scored the game’s second touchdown via a 17-yard run. Anderson chipped in with a pair of touchdown runs as the Vikings became the first team in NFC Wild-Card history to score three rushing touchdown in the same game.

Although the spotlight was placed on the running backs, they clearly understood who made it possible.

"Everybody felt comfortable today," commented Rice after the victory. "The line felt comfortable because they knew they were blocking some good people, and they were opening holes for us. And we felt comfortable because we were doing something with those holes."

The memorable 1988 Wild-Card Game was the just the beginning for McDaniel as he ended up having many more opportunities to shine in future playoff appearances. In all, he played in six more wild-card games as a Viking and two more at the end of his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. No player has ever appeared in more wild-card games than the nine by McDaniel.

1988 NFC Wild-Card Game (Los Angeles at Minnesota)
Gamebook | Randall McDaniel HOF Bio

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