By the time Super Bowl XI rolled around at the end of the 1976-77 season, the Minnesota Vikings had already mangled three attempts at the championship (1970, 1974 and 1975). Their opponents this time — the Oakland Raiders — were making their first Super Bowl appearance since falling to the Green Bay Packers in the second-ever Championship.
January 9, 1977, was not only the earliest Super Bowl scheduled in a calendar year (most Super Bowls occurred in mid-January up until this point), but it was also the first time a team qualified for the Big Game on four separate occasions. By the time you're done reading this article, you'll know how soon before kickoff referees hosted the coin toss, which unfortunate trend the Vikings sternly held onto, and how many fans poured into the Rose Bowl on game day.
The Vikings' 1976-77 season was quite similar to that of previous seasons. After securing their eighth NFC Central conference title and an 11-2-1 regular-season record, the Vikings handily earned their fourth shot at Super Bowl contention.
The most notable player on the Vikings line-up was three-time Super Bowl starting quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who had 17 touchdowns and 2,961 yards on the season (as well as 308 touchdown passes in his 16-year career).
Despite boasting standouts like running back Chuck Foreman (1,155 yards), fullback Brent McClanahan (634 yards), and a brute-force defensive line aptly nicknamed the "Purple People Eaters," the Vikings were — again — expected to walk away from a Super Bowl empty-handed.
Super Bowl XI was a shot for the Oakland Raiders to make their big comeback after handing the Packers the title in Super Bowl II. Now with coach John Madden at the wheel and promising team chemistry, the Raiders approached Super Bowl XI with an 11-2-1 record, a 10-game winning streak, and a practically-unmatched running and passing game.
In addition to the newly-formed 3-4 defense (injuries forced them to transition from a 4-3 mid-season), the Raiders roster included stars like quarterback Ken Stabler (27 touchdowns and 2,737 yards), fullback Mark van Eeghen (1,012 rushing yards), and wide receiver Cliff Branch (averaging 24.2 yards per catch).
Four Oakland players also played in their last 1968 Super Bowl appearance.
For the first time in NFL history, the two teams going head-to-head at the Super Bowl were the No. 1 seeds in their respective conferences. Though both teams had their first Super Bowl title on the line, the Vikings had a trend they were dying to overturn.
Not only had Minnesota never scored a point in the first half of any of their previous three Super Bowls, but they also never held the lead in any of their performances. Interestingly, many touted the first four Vikings' Super Bowl appearances (including XI) as some of the worst in early NFL history.
On January 9, 1977, a record 103,438 local NFL fans crowded into the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, anxiously awaiting the earliest Super Bowl kickoff in recent history (12:47 PM Pacific Time). Those in attendance spent a cool $20 (valued at $85.90 today) to experience this historic match-up in-person.
With a unique start to the festivities — Vikki Carr's performance of America the Beautiful instead of the traditional National Anthem — and a first-of-its-kind coin toss three minutes before kickoff (tails), Super Bowl XI began.
The Raiders took their first Super Bowl in a decade in strides. Still, both teams failed to make good on multiple scoring opportunities early on — an Oakland play on the 12-yard-line that went nowhere, a missed 29-yard field goal by Raiders kicker Errol Mann, and a Minnesota fumble on a lucky possession. Neither team was on the scoreboard before the end of the first quarter.
After a slow start to Super Bowl XI, the Raiders capitalized on their first chance to score in the second quarter. Errol Mann successfully collected a 24-yard field goal to give Oakland a 3-0 lead. The Raiders pressed on. The team captured 64 yards in just ten plays, ending the possession on a 1-yard pass to the end zone delivered directly to Casper.
Now up 10-0, the Raiders didn't look to be slowing down any time soon. While at first and goal with 3:33 left in the first half, Stabler connected on a touchdown pass to Pete Banaszak and Mann — again — missed the uprights, widening Oakland's lead to an impressive 16-0.
The Raiders returned to the locker room confident in their first-half performance while a wildly entertaining halftime show wowed viewers across the nation. A clever "It's a Small World Disney" halftime performance — featuring the most popular characters from The New Mickey Mouse Club and a unique card stunt involving the crowd — set the stage for entertaining halftime shows for decades to come. The Super Bowl suddenly became a family affair.
The second half of Super Bowl XI began slow, with the teams trading three punts before Mann snatched another 40-yard field goal, leaving the Vikings trailing by 19 points. Tarkenton's lousy performance as quarterback forced yet another Vikings punt, but a penalty by Ted Hendricks on the play allowed Minnesota to keep possession with a first down.
Following three passes totaling 36 yards, Sammy White caught an 8-yard pass for a touchdown. With one quarter remaining in Super Bowl XI, the Raiders were ahead 19-7.
The fourth quarter started like the previous three — with minimal action. Half-way through the last quarter, a 48-yard catch by Oakland's Biletnikoff brought the Raiders to the 2-yard-line, allowing Banaszak to gain his second touchdown of the game (26-7).
Two minutes later, Willie Brown intercepted a pass from Tarkenton, darting 75 yards to give Oakland a 32-7 lead. Vikings tight end Stu Voigt claimed a touchdown with just 25 seconds left in the game, but there wasn't enough time left for Minnesota to make a comeback. Super Bowl XI ended with a 32-14 Raiders victory.
Raiders receiver Fred Biletnikoff didn't put any points on the board in the eleventh Super Bowl, but his on-field performance didn't go unnoticed.
As was Vikings tradition, Minnesota lost their fourth Super Bowl attempt, failed to lead at any point in the game, and couldn't get on the board during the first half.
Maybe it was the fourth attempt at retribution by the Vikings or the fact that Oakland was the so-called "home team" in this California-based Super Bowl. But one thing's for sure: The eleventh-ever Super Bowl drew the most widespread attention compared to the previous ten match-ups.
On top of the over 103,000 fans cheering in Pasadena, over 81.9 million Americans caught the game from home. The NBC broadcast of Super Bowl XI also captured a record-high Nielsen rating (44.4) that was 0.2 points higher than the previous record — Super Bowl VI.
The Raiders went into Super Bowl XI with a cumulative .772 win percentage over the last eight seasons, just a single loss during the 1976-77 NFL season, and legendary Coach John Madden leading the crew. With each of these accomplishments under its belt, Oakland was the predicted winner of the upcoming eleventh Super Bowl.
Closing out the game 32-14, Oakland skillfully covered the 4-point spread. Both teams smashed through the over/under (38) with just 5:43 left in the game. With that in mind, an over bet on total points meant a considerable payout and an exciting game.
Many Minnesota fans left the 1976-77 season frustrated with the team's seeming inability to rise to the occasion, especially since the Vikings boasted an 87–24–1 in the previous eight years (an NFL record at the time). The two teams went their separate ways following Super Bowl XI. The Vikings wouldn't qualify for the Super Bowl until well after the turn of the century, and the Raiders continued picking up titles in the years to come.