The 3-12 Cardinals stumbled into the finale with rumors swirling that head coach Dave McGinnis would be let go. Nothing had been announced. Young players dotted the lineup.
Dave McGinnis, Cardinals head coach: I knew I was gone. I told the team. I remember (center) Pete Kendall, 'Ah, hell no Mac.' I said, 'Look, it's the league. It's OK. But just because that's it, you guys will still have extended careers, I told them I'll still continue to be in the league, we just won't be together here.' We're all going out, this team won't be together next year – that never happens – and I won't be your head coach, but I would just like to go out because no one expects us to win this game, we're double-digit dogs to a playoff team. No one expects anything of us.
Josh McCown, quarterback: I wish I could say I was that aware, but I wasn't (that Cards could get the No. 1 pick). I remember talking to (QB coach) Geep (Chryst) afterwards, and him saying, 'You came on and these last few games, you've shown some growth and some steps forward, and hopefully they'll keep us. If that is something that means something to you, if anyone asks you, make sure you let them know.' And that was the first time I was like, 'Oh man, (the coaches) might not be back.'
Reggie Wells, rookie left tackle making his first NFL start: I wasn't someone who was going to come home (and tell my family) I might be starting. They still tell the story, they were at the concession stand (an open area by the players' tunnel) at the game and this is when we played at Sun Devil Stadium. They see (regular left tackle) L.J. (Shelton) walking by, and they were like 'Where you going, the game is about to start?' And he was like, 'Reg is about to start is what's going to happen.' My parents still tell the story about leaving the concession stand and rushing back to their seats.
Corey Chavous, Vikings Pro Bowl safety and former Cardinal: It wasn't really as good of a season as it seemed from the outside. On the first interception of the season I tore my MCL, so I had to sleep at the facility at night for like the first month of the season and get treatment all night long just to play every week. They thought I was going to miss a lot of time, and it was just difficult every week getting ready and just not being healthy. All season, it was more a journey for me individually. I wanted to fight through, I was a team captain and I felt like we had a good team. I enjoyed the team success early (6-0 start) and I think we peaked too early.
Paul Allen, Vikings play-by-play announcer: In my 18 years calling Vikings football, we have had some quite memorable seasons and it's for different reasons. For me, the 2003 season, my second season on the microphone, that is one – for many reasons – I will never forget. The team was 6-0, and it had a 'There ain't no stopping us now' feel to it. Then we started losing to some of the most nondescript teams and quarterbacks.
McCown: You've been around Mac. Anyone who has been around Mac, he can make any game feel like the Super Bowl.
The Cardinals didn't roll over. They led, 6-0, at halftime. Not only did they start McCown and Wells, they also gave more playing time to Poole, who had been cut and brought back to the Cards more times than he wanted to count.
Nate Poole, wide receiver: I was the backup to (rookies) Bryant Johnson and Anquan Boldin, whoever needed a blow. I was a heavy special teams guy. When coach told me 'Nate, you up until I tell you otherwise,' I actually thought my special teams role was going to slow down, but it didn't. It was more like, 'Dang, I get a chance to play? Are they going to trade Bryant?' Because I did start thinking like that. 'Could they get rid of Johnson?' Actually made me feel a little bit better. I mean, he's my man, but we all are looking to play.
Meanwhile, in Green Bay, the Packers were beating up the Broncos. The Packers not only needed a win to make the playoffs, but also for the Cardinals to upset the Vikings.
Mark Tauscher, Packers right tackle: Minnesota, we were obviously battling them for the better part of the second half of the season, and I don't think we anticipated Arizona beating Minnesota. I don't think we thought it was going to come to that. It was one of those things where it was algebra, calculus-type stuff (for the playoff scenarios). If we would've thought that all our hopes were on Arizona needing to beat Minnesota, I don't think we would've felt that confident.