1981 Minnesota Vikings season

1981 Minnesota Vikings season
Head coach Bud Grant
General manager Mike Lynn
Home field Metropolitan Stadium
Record 7–9
Division place 4th NFC Central
Playoff finish did not qualify

The 1981 Minnesota Vikings season was the team's 21st season, the 62nd regular season of the National Football League, and the final season for the team at Metropolitan Stadium. The Vikings finished with a record of seven wins and nine losses, and missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.

The Vikings attempted 709 passes in 1981 (44.31 per game) a league record that stood for 30 years until it was broken by the 2012 Detroit Lions.[1]


1981 Draft

Main article: 1981 NFL draft
=Pro Bowler
1981 Minnesota Vikings Draft
Draft order Player name Position College Notes
Round Choice Overall
11818Traded to the Baltimore Colts[a]
21139Mardye McDoleWide receiverMississippi Statefrom Colts[a]
1745Robin SendleinLinebackerTexas-Austin
2452Jarvis RedwineRunning backNebraskafrom Rams via Redskins and Colts[a]
31571Traded to the New Orleans Saints[b]
1874Tim IrwinOffensive tackleTennesseefrom Patriots[c]
418101John SwainCornerbackMiami
512123Wendell RayDefensive endMissourifrom Colts[a]
17128Traded to the New Orleans Saints[b]
616154Traded to the Miami Dolphins[d]
718184Don ShaverRunning backKutztown (PA)
817210 Wade WilsonQuarterbackOklahoma
916237Traded to the Seattle Seahawks[e]
1018266James MurphyWide receiverUtah State
1117293Bill StephanosOffensive tackleBoston College
1216320Brian WilliamsTight endSouthern
^[a] Baltimore traded two 2nd round selections (39th and 52nd overall) and their 5th round selection (123rd overall) to Minnesota to move up 21 spots to the 18th overall selection and draft DE Donnell Thompson.
^[b] Minnesota traded their 3rd round selection (71st overall) and 5th round selection (128th overall) to New Orleans for OT Steve Riley.
^[c] New England traded their 3rd round selection (74th overall) to Minnesota for RB Chuck Foreman.
^[d] Minnesota traded their 6th round selection (154th overall) and 1982 5th round selection (120th overall) to Miami for OL Jim Langer.
^[e] Minnesota traded their 9th round selection (236th overall) to Seattle for OT Nick Bebout.

Regular Season

After opening the season with back-to-back losses, the Vikings ran off five straight wins and sat near the top of the NFC at midseason. After splitting their next four games, the Vikings were 7–4 and poised for a playoff run—however, the Vikings would lose their last five games to close out the year.

The Vikings were led by quarterback Tommy Kramer, who enjoyed the most productive season of his career by throwing for 3,912 yards and 26 touchdowns. However, Kramer also threw 24 interceptions in 1981. The '81 Vikings set an NFL record for pass attempts with 709.

A trio of offensive standouts paced the Vikings in 1981 at the skill positions. Running back Ted Brown was the team's main ballcarrier, rushing for 1,063 yards and also came in third in the NFL with 83 pass receptions. He scored eight touchdowns. Veteran wide receiver Sammy White also eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark for the first time in his career (1,001) and tight end Joe Senser, who would later become a color analyst on radio for the Vikings, logged 1,004 yards receiving with eight touchdowns; Senser went to the Pro Bowl for the '81 season.


Week Date Opponent Result Venue Attendance
1 September 5, 1981 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers L 21-13 Tampa Staium
2 September 14, 1981 Oakland Raiders L 36-10 Met Stadium
3 September 20, 1981 Detroit Lions W 26-24 Met Stadium
4 September 27, 1981 at Green Bay Packers W 30-13 Milwaukee County Stadium
5 October 4, 1981 Chicago Bears W 24-21 Met Stadium
6 October 11, 1981 at San Diego Chargers W 33-31 San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium
7 October 18, 1981 Philadelphia Eagles W 35-23 Met Stadium
8 October 25, 1981 at St. Louis Cardinals L 30-17 Busch Stadium
9 November 2, 1981 at Denver Broncos L 19-17 Mile High Stadium
10 November 8, 1981 Tampa Bay Buccaneers W 25-10 Met Stadium
11 November 15, 1981 New Orleans Saints W 20-10 Met Stadium
12 November 23, 1981 at Atlanta Falcons L 31-30 Atlanta Fulton County Stadium
13 November 29, 1981 Green Bay Packers L 35-23 Met Stadium
14 December 6, 1981 at Chicago Bears L 10-9 Soldier Field
15 December 12, 1981 at Detroit Lions L 45-7 Silverdome
16 December 20, 1981 Kansas City Chiefs L 10-6 Met Stadium


NFC Central
Tampa Bay Buccaneers(3) 9 7 0 .563 6–2 9–3 315 268 W1
Detroit Lions 8 8 0 .500 4–4 6–6 397 322 L1
Green Bay Packers 8 8 0 .500 4–4 7–7 324 361 L1
Minnesota Vikings 7 9 0 .438 4–4 6–6 325 369 L5
Chicago Bears 6 10 0 .375 2–6 2–10 253 324 W3


Team leaders

Category Player(s) Value
Passing Yards Tommy Kramer 3,912
Passing Touchdowns Tommy Kramer 26
Rushing Yards Ted Brown 1,063
Rushing Touchdowns Ted Brown 6
Receiving Yards Joe Senser 1,004
Receiving Touchdowns Joe Senser 8
Points Rick Danmeier 97
Kickoff Return Yards Eddie Payton 898
Punt Return Yards Eddie Payton 303
Tackles Scott Studwell 230
Interceptions Tom Hannon
Willie Teal

League rankings

Category Total yards Yards per game NFL rank
(out of 28)
Passing Offense 4,333 Yards 270.8 YPG 2nd
Rushing Offense 1,512 Yards 94.5 YPG 28th
Total Offense 5,845 Yards 365.3 YPG 6th
Passing Defense 3,328 Yards 208.0 YPG 18th
Rushing Defense 2,045 Yards 127.8 YPG 15th
Total Defense 5,373 Yards 335.8 YPG 17th


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