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

=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)
817210Wade 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.


1981 Minnesota Vikings final roster

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen


Defensive backs

Special teams

Reserve lists

Practice squad

Rookies in italics
Active, Inactive, Practice squad


1August 8Miami DolphinsL 6–200–1Metropolitan Stadium45,165
2August 14at Washington RedskinsL 13–270–2Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium44,662
3August 22Atlanta FalconsW 20–191–2Metropolitan Stadium42,908
4August 27at Los Angeles RamsL 31–341–3Anaheim Stadium60,141

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 Record Venue Attendance
1 September 5, 1981 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers L 21–13 0–1 Tampa Stadium 66,287
2 September 14, 1981 Oakland Raiders L 36–10 0–2 Metropolitan Stadium 47,186
3 September 20, 1981 Detroit Lions W 26–24 1–2 Metropolitan Stadium 45,350
4 September 27, 1981 at Green Bay Packers W 30–13 2–2 Milwaukee County Stadium 55,012
5 October 4, 1981 Chicago Bears W 24–21 3–2 Metropolitan Stadium 43,827
6 October 11, 1981 at San Diego Chargers W 33–31 4–2 San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium 50,708
7 October 18, 1981 Philadelphia Eagles W 35–23 5–2 Metropolitan Stadium 45,459
8 October 25, 1981 at St. Louis Cardinals L 30–17 5–3 Civic Center Busch Memorial Stadium 48,039
9 November 2, 1981 at Denver Broncos L 19–17 5–4 Mile High Stadium 74,834
10 November 8, 1981 Tampa Bay Buccaneers W 25–10 6–4 Metropolitan Stadium 47,038
11 November 15, 1981 New Orleans Saints W 20–10 7–4 Metropolitan Stadium 45,215
12 November 23, 1981 at Atlanta Falcons L 31–30 7–5 Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium 54,086
13 November 29, 1981 Green Bay Packers L 35–23 7–6 Metropolitan Stadium 46,025
14 December 6, 1981 at Chicago Bears L 10–9 7–7 Soldier Field 50,766
15 December 12, 1981 at Detroit Lions L 45–7 7–8 Pontiac Silverdome 79,428
16 December 20, 1981 Kansas City Chiefs L 10–6 7–9 Metropolitan Stadium 41,110


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 YardsTommy Kramer3,912
Passing TouchdownsTommy Kramer26
Rushing YardsTed Brown1,063
Rushing TouchdownsTed Brown6
Receiving YardsJoe Senser1,004
Receiving TouchdownsJoe Senser8
PointsRick Danmeier97
Kickoff Return YardsEddie Payton898
Punt Return YardsEddie Payton303
TacklesScott Studwell230
InterceptionsTom Hannon
Willie Teal
  • Vikings single season record although tackles were not official until 2001.

League rankings

Category Total yards Yards per game NFL rank
(out of 28)
Passing Offense4,333 Yards270.8 YPG2nd
Rushing Offense1,512 Yards94.5 YPG28th
Total Offense5,845 Yards365.3 YPG6th
Passing Defense3,328 Yards208.0 YPG18th
Rushing Defense2,045 Yards127.8 YPG15th
Total Defense5,373 Yards335.8 YPG17th


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