The Arizona Cardinals and Minnesota Vikings have quite a history, but perhaps no matchup was more memorable than the season finale in 2003.
The 2003 Minnesota Vikings were the Class of the NFL throughout first seven weeks of the season, embarking on a 6-0 run that saw them score no less than 23 points in a single contest. By contrast, the 2003 Arizona Cardinals lost five of their first six, scoring only an upset win over the Green Bay Packers in Week 3 after scoring just 24 points and allowing 80 over their first two contests.
The Cardinals would improve to 3-5 by Week 9 that year, before embarking on a seven-game losing streak. This team was so bad, they scored over 17 points just once in that span, with the only outlier being their 30-27 loss to the St. Louis Rams in Week 12. This put the Cardinals at 3-12 on the year.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, they too continued to stumble, limping their way to 8-6 before defeating the 12-2 Kansas City Chiefs 45-20 in Week 16. It looked as though the Vikings finally rightened their ship with the playoffs in sight. They only needed to beat a Cardinals team that lost 28-10 to the Seattle Seahawks the previous week.
Arizona Cardinals v. Vikings – Week 17, 2003
Between 1996 and 2003, Sun Devil Stadium held a capacity of 73,379, and the Cardinals saw just 52,734 show up for the season finale, filling just 72% of the stadium on December 28th, 2003. The Cardinals offense, led by second-year quarterback Josh McCown, looked lifeless, but their defense held long enough to take the team into halftime clinging to a 6-0 lead.
Midway through the third quarter, however, the Vikings struck back on a one-yard touchdown run by Moe Williams, giving them their first lead of the game. The contest remained a 7-6 near-stalemate until the fourth quarter, when Randy Moss caught a seven-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Daunte Culpepper, putting the Vikings up 14-6 with just under nine minutes remaining in the contest.
With 6:48 to go, the Cardinals looked finished, with kicker Aaron Elling tacking on a field goal to increase the Vikings lead to 17-6. Tight end Steve Bush caught a touchdown pass from McCown on fourth and one with just 1:54 to go in the contest, but a failed two-point conversion prevented the Cardinals from moving to within a field goal.
McCown’s heroics kept the Cardinals alive, as he evaded two sacks to find an open Bush, who made a sliding catch and just kept his body in bounds with control of the ball, which the booth review later confirmed.