|1981 Minnesota Vikings season|
|Head Coach||Bud Grant|
|General Manager||Mike Lynn|
|Home Field||Metropolitan Stadium|
|Place||4th NFC Central|
|Playoff Finish||did not qualify|
|Previous season||Next season|
The 1981 season was the Minnesota Vikings' 21st in the National Football League, their 15th under head coach Bud Grant, and their final season at Metropolitan Stadium. They finished with a 7–9 record, and missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
|1981 Minnesota Vikings Draft|
|Draft order||Player name||Position||College||Notes|
|1||18||Traded to the Baltimore Colts[a]|
|2||39||Mardye McDole||Wide receiver||Mississippi State||from Colts[a]|
|52||Jarvis Redwine||Running back||Nebraska||from Rams via Redskins and Colts[a]|
|3||71||Traded to the New Orleans Saints[b]|
|74||Tim Irwin||Offensive tackle||Tennessee||from Patriots[c]|
|5||123||Wendell Ray||Defensive end||Missouri||from Colts[a]|
|128||Traded to the New Orleans Saints[b]|
|6||154||Traded to the Miami Dolphins[d]|
|7||184||Don Shaver||Running back||Kutztown (PA)|
|9||237||Traded to the Seattle Seahawks[e]|
|10||266||James Murphy||Wide receiver||Utah State|
|11||293||Bill Stephanos||Offensive tackle||Boston College|
|12||320||Brian Williams||Tight end||Southern|
- ^[a] The Vikings traded their first-round selection (18th overall) to the Baltimore Colts in exchange for the Colts' second- and fifth-round selections (39th and 123rd overall) and the second-round selection they received from the Redskins (52nd overall).
- ^[b] The Vikings traded their third- and fifth-round selections (71st and 128th overall) to the New Orleans Saints in exchange for T Steve Riley.
- ^[c] The Vikings traded RB Chuck Foreman to the New England Patriots in exchange for the Patriots' third-round selection (74th overall).
- ^[d] The Vikings traded their sixth-round selection (154th overall) and 1982 fifth-round selection (120th overall) to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for C Jim Langer.
- ^[e] The Vikings traded their ninth-round selection (236th overall) to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for T Nick Bebout.
|1981 Minnesota Vikings roster|
| Offensive linemen
| Reserve lists
|1||August 8||Miami Dolphins||L 6–20||0–1||Metropolitan Stadium||45,165|
|2||August 14||at Washington Redskins||L 13–27||0–2||Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium||44,662|
|3||August 22||Atlanta Falcons||W 20–19||1–2||Metropolitan Stadium||42,908|
|4||August 27||at Los Angeles Rams||L 31–34||1–3||Anaheim Stadium||60,141|
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, they lost 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, throwing for 3,912 yards and 26 touchdowns. However, Kramer also threw 24 interceptions in 1981. The 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 ball carrier, 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 1981 season.
|1||September 5||at Tampa Bay Buccaneers||L 13–21||0–1||Tampa Stadium||66,287|
|2||September 14||Oakland Raiders||L 10–36||0–2||Metropolitan Stadium||47,186|
|3||September 20||Detroit Lions||W 26–24||1–2||Metropolitan Stadium||45,350|
|4||September 27||at Green Bay Packers||W 30–13||2–2||Milwaukee County Stadium||55,012|
|5||October 4||Chicago Bears||W 24–21||3–2||Metropolitan Stadium||43,827|
|6||October 11||at San Diego Chargers||W 33–31||4–2||San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium||50,708|
|7||October 18||Philadelphia Eagles||W 35–23||5–2||Metropolitan Stadium||45,459|
|8||October 25||at St. Louis Cardinals||L 17–30||5–3||Civic Center Busch Memorial Stadium||48,039|
|9||November 2||at Denver Broncos||L 17–19||5–4||Mile High Stadium||74,834|
|10||November 8||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||W 25–10||6–4||Metropolitan Stadium||47,038|
|11||November 15||New Orleans Saints||W 20–10||7–4||Metropolitan Stadium||45,215|
|12||November 23||at Atlanta Falcons||L 30–31||7–5||Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium||54,086|
|13||November 29||Green Bay Packers||L 23–35||7–6||Metropolitan Stadium||46,025|
|14||December 6||at Chicago Bears||L 9–10||7–7||Soldier Field||50,766|
|15||December 12||at Detroit Lions||L 7–45||7–8||Pontiac Silverdome||79,428|
|16||December 20||Kansas City Chiefs||L 6–10||7–9||Metropolitan Stadium||41,110|
Note: Intra-division opponents are in bold text.
|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|
|Kickoff return yards||Eddie Payton||898|
|Punt return yards||Eddie Payton||303|
|Interceptions|| Tom Hannon |
- Vikings single season record although tackles were not official until 2001.
|Category||Total yards||Yards per game|| NFL rank|
(out of 28)