November 7, 2009
The Week 9 divisional matchup at Metropolatin Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota on November 7, 1976 featured the Vikings (6-1-1) against the visiting Detroit Lions (4-4). Minnesota had barely beaten the Lions at Detroit in Week 3, pulling out a 10-9 win, and had lost for the first time the previous week at Chicago, 14-13. Still, they were a strong team that had won the NFC Central Division the previous three seasons and seven of the past eight years, going back to the pre-merger years of 1968 and ’69.
There had been concern with regard to the receiving corps during the offseason, but the addition of rookie wide receiver Sammy White, who had been drafted in the second round, and Ahmad Rashad, a veteran obtained from Buffalo, created a highly effective combination. By Week 9, White had caught 27 passes for 447 yards (an average gain of 16.6 yards) and three TDs.
White scored the first and last Minnesota touchdowns against the Lions, on passes from QB Fran Tarkenton covering 24 yards in the first quarter and 37 yards in the fourth. He also had a 52-yard gain in the process of accumulating a club-record 210 yards on 7 receptions.
Running back Chuck Foreman had two short scoring runs in between, while QB Greg Landry threw a touchdown pass for the Lions and RB Lawrence Gaines rushed for 116 yards and a score. In the end, it was the Vikings prevailing by a 31-23 margin.
Rashad also had solid numbers, if far less spectacular than White’s, with 6 receptions for 85 yards. Tarkenton completed 17 of 25 passes for 347 yards, including the two scoring passes to White and an interception. Since the Lions neutralized the Minnesota running game – Foreman was well below his 4.2 yards per carry rushing average with just 51 yards on 19 attempts – the success of the passing game determined the outcome.
The Vikings went on to finish first in the NFC Central yet again, with an 11-2-1 record, and won the NFC Championship before losing to Oakland in the Super Bowl. Detroit came in third in the division at 6-8.
Sammy White caught a total of 51 passes for 906 yards and 10 TDs in this, his first of ten seasons with the Vikings. He was an All-NFC selection by Pro Football Weekly and UPI, went to the Pro Bowl, and was the Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. And in the years since, with the passing game enhanced by rules changes and a parade of great receivers passing through Minnesota, the 210-yard receiving performance still stands out.