20 years ago, Nate Poole shattered the playoff hopes of the Minnesota Vikings

Former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Nathan Poole
Former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Nathan Poole / Stephen Dunn/GettyImages

On December 28th, 2003, all the Minnesota Vikings had to do to win the NFC North title and clinch a spot in the playoffs was defeat a three-win Arizona Cardinals team on the road.

It seemed simple enough, especially against a Cardinals team that would have wound up with the No. 1 pick in the 2004 NFL Draft if they lost to the Vikings.

But Arizona had different plans on this day, and thanks to a former college teammate of Minnesota All-Pro wide receiver Randy Moss, they were able to pull off one of the most shocking upsets in NFL history.

Arizona Cardinals did the unexpected against the Minnesota Vikings in 2003

After Aaron Elling converted a 46-yard field-goal attempt, the Vikings led the Cardinals by a score of 17-6 with less than seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Minnesota already had one foot in the playoffs and all they had to do was prevent an underwhelming Arizona team from erasing their 11-point lead.

Then, in what felt like the Cardinals' final opportunity to stage some sort of comeback, second-year quarterback Josh McCown led Arizona on a 15-play, 70-yard offensive drive that ended with McCown throwing a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Steve Bush.

After the score, the Cardinals attempted a two-point conversion that would've cut their deficit to just three points, but the conversion failed and Arizona's offense walked off of the field trailing by five.

With less than two minutes left in the game, the Cardinals only had one timeout remaining, so they had to attempt an onside kick in order to get the football back.

Once again, the Vikings were presented with a simple task that would have resulted in a postseason berth.

If Minnesota recovered the onside kick, the game would have essentially been over, and the Vikings would have walked back into the locker room as NFC North champs.

But, of course, that's not what happened.

Arizona kicker Neil Rackers launched the onside kick to the right side of the field, and at first, it seemed like Minnesota tight end Jim Kleinsasser was going to recover the football.

Instead, Vikings rookie receiver Nate Burleson bumped into Kleinsasser in midair, causing the football to bounce off of the tight end's hands and fall right into the lap of Cardinals running back Damien Anderson.

Suddenly, Arizona had hope, and for the first time all afternoon, a feeling of concern spread throughout Minnesota's sideline.

However, the Vikings defense, a unit that had already sacked McCown six times during the matchup, was confident they could keep the Cardinals out of the end zone.

Arizona began their drive with an incomplete pass, but Minnesota cornerback Denard Walker was flagged for pass interference on the play.

So instead of 2nd-and-10 from their own 39-yard line, the penalty moved the Cardinals all the way to the Vikings' 31-yard line.

A trio of plays moved Arizona up to Minnesota's nine-yard line, but then the Vikings responded with a pair of sacks that pushed the Cardinals 17 yards backward.

So with four seconds left in regulation, Arizona faced a 4th-and-25 from Minnesota's 28-yard line, and it seemed like the Vikings had done enough to avoid an embarrassing loss.

McCown received the snap, scrambled to his right, and launched the football toward the right side of the end zone.

The ball miraculously landed in the hands of Cardinals wide receiver Nate Poole, a former college teammate of Randy Moss's at Marshall, and after an official review, the catch was ruled a touchdown.

Minnesota was stunned.

Instead of preparing for a playoff game in front of their home crowd inside the Metrodome, the Vikings' 2003 season came to an end following Poole's miracle walk-off touchdown catch.

To make things even worse, Minnesota's loss meant that their playoff spot and the NFC North title went to the rival Green Bay Packers.

While Arizona fans look back on this game with fond memories, this loss in the 2003 regular-season finale is one that Vikings fans would like to forget for the rest of time.