The farcical finale to the season--a last-second collapse against a woeful Arizona Cardinal team--did more than merely knock the Vikings from playoff contention. It very nearly erased all the good memories from what had been a fun, if ultimately disappointing, season. In September, fans had no reason or right to expect much. In retrospect, the Vikes' 6-0 start was an obvious mirage, especially when you consider that owner Red McCombs committed the team to a year of budget ball. Still, there were some pleasant surprises in '03. Most notable: the performance of rookie running back Onterrio Smith, who lived up to his self-anointed status as the steal of the draft. But as has been the case every season since 1998, the Freak was indisputably the Vikings' best player--the guy who won the most games, put the most asses in seats, and made the most highlight reels. Strictly by the numbers, Moss was better this year than in any of his five previous seasons, all of which have been stellar. He broke his record for receiving yards in a season (1,632). He tied his record for TDs (17). He didn't get arrested for a traffic violation. And no discussion of Moss's 2003 season would be complete without a mention of what was possibly the most entertaining sideline moment in Vikings history: the thug-look exhibition from a handful of Vikings on what would prove to be the biggest victory of the season, a 45 to 20 whipping of the streaking Kansas City Chiefs. Moss was among the players to unleash his cornrows for the game. His electroshock 'fro--one part Don King, two parts Hendrix--was as spectacular as the two-touchdown performance in the first half that set the great rout in motion.


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