The 2002-03' AFL Championship Game' was a contest between the Covenant Mustangs of the South Division and the Minnesota Vikings of the North Division, held at Dallas' Texas Stadium on January 27, 2003. The Minnesota Vikings entered the game as 21 point favorites thanks to their offense, the highest scoring in the history of the league, and their 13-0 record. The game was significant as the Green Bay Packers had completed the second-ever unbeaten season the previous year in their AFL title run, and their archnemesis Minnesota was now preparing to match this feat. The Mustangs, who had won two road games in the playoffs as a #3 seed, defeated the Vikings 34-17 in what is regarded as one of the most unexpected upsets in league history.
2002 Season and Playoffs
Covenant MustangsThe Covenant Mustangs finished the 2002 season 9-3, only squeaking into the playoffs on a tiebreaker over Tennessee. In the AFL quarterfinals, they travelled to Houston to take on the 11-1 Oilers, whom they defeated 19-13 in a defensive struggle. The next weekend, they went to top-ranked 11-1 St. Louis and took down their hated archrival 24-10, intercepting Cardinals quarterback Josh Turner four times, an AFL playoff record for most interceptions thrown.
The Mustangs were a defensive team, led by one of the best secondaries ever assembled in Devonte Brown, Owen McClure, Samuel James, and Chris Pullen. The zone scheme of the defense helped force normally high-scoring offenses to play conservatively. Covenant had willed its way into the playoffs despite an early-season injury to star quarterback Jake Brown, who was replaced by Mikey Wilson down the stretch. Wilson had played extraordinarily well to lead the Mustangs on a seven-game winning streak including the playoffs coming into the AFL title game.
Minnesota VikingsLed by longtime Vikings star quarterback Brad Johnson, Minnesota went undefeated in league play in 2002, finishing the season 12-0, a run capped off by an impressive defeat of the defending champion Green Bay on the road. Johnson and receivers Duane Carter and Randy Moss lit up the AFL in 2002, scoring the highest number of points in league history. They had a quarterfinal bye in the playoffs before defeating archrival Green Bay at home in the playoffs to head to Dallas, where they would face one of the two South Division teams they had not played that year: the Covenant Mustangs. Johnson was named the league MVP and Moss received the Offensive Player of the Year award for their prolific season, and head coach Mike Tice was given the AP Coach of the Year award.
The Mustangs defense dominated the Minnesota offensive line and confused star Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson with their variety of coverage schemes. Corner Chris Pullen jammed and covered star Minnesota receiver Randy Moss at the line and limited the mercurial Moss to only two catches for 17 yards on the night.
Wilson led Covenant to two touchdown scores on their first two drives and finished the night with three passing touchdowns and zero interceptions. Brad Johnson's only interception was returned for a touchdown by Samuel James late in the second quarter, spotting Covenant a 21-3 lead going into halftime. Johnson would throw two touchdown strikes in the third quarter to make the score 24-17 and bring Minnesota back within a touchdown, but Wilson led the Mustangs on a long, clock-consuming scoring drive in the fourth quarter capped off by a Dustin Naylor touchdown run with 6:32 left in the fourth to make it a 34-17 deficit the hapless Vikings could never recover from.
Wilson 5 yard TD Pass to Mercer (Extra Point attempt is Good) COV 7 MIN 0
Wilson 11 yard TD Pass to Collier (Extra Point attempt is Good) COV 14 MIN 0
Adams 43 yard Field Goal COV 14 MIN 3
James 36 yard Interception Return for TD (Extra Point attempt is Good) COV 21 MIN 3
Johnson 22 yard TD pass to Carter (Extra Point attempt is Good) COV 21 MIN 10
Seubel 21 yard Field Goal COV 24 MIN 10
Johnson 26 yard TD pass to Carter (Extra Point attempt is Good) COV 24 MIN 17
Naylor 3 yard TD run (Extra Point attempt is Good) COV 31 MIN 17