Turning Point: Jackson Wins Rookie Battle

Coming into the 2006 NFL Draft, most draftniks considered Omar Jacobs a mid-round selection and never considered Tarvaris Jackson along the same lines. They certainly weren't equals Saturday night, but it was Jackson brightly outshining Jacobs to win the battle of the rookie quarterbacks and eventually the game with a steady, veteran-like performance.

One of the complaints of the Vikings in recent years was that they rarely made adjustments at halftime that consistently took away things opponents did well early in games. In Saturday's 17-10 win over the Steelers, the Vikings reversed a slow start by turning the tables on the Steelers to effectively tilt the game in their favor and create their own turning point of the game.

The Vikings again got off to a poor start. In their preseason opener, Troy Williamson fumbled the opening kickoff and Minnesota started the game in a hole within the first 1:24 of the game. While the Vikings didn't have a turnover early, the start was just as brutal. The team went three-and-out on offense and allowed the Steelers to drive 55 yards on six plays to take an early 7-0 lead. But as the teams came out for the second half, it was the Vikings turn to take advantage of the adjustments made at halftime.

Both teams came out with rookie quarterbacks – Omar Jacobs for the Steelers and Tarvaris Jackson for the Vikings – but the differences were pronounced. With the Vikings leading 10-7, the Steelers looked like a team in disarray. Jacobs' first pass was almost intercepted by safety Will Hunter and, after a 5-yard run, the Steelers were forced to take a time out due to confusion in the huddle. Before they could run a third-down play, the Steelers were called for a false start penalty. Pushed into a much less manageable third-and-10 situation, Darrion Scott broke free and sacked Jacobs for a five-yard loss – bringing on the Steelers punting team.

With a chance to take control of the game, Jackson looked like anything but a rookie, taking what the defense was giving him, checking down on his receivers and completing every pass he threw. Starting from his own 44, Jackson completed a pair of 11-yard passes to tight end Richard Owens and fullback Steven Jackson. Following a 7-yard sack that could have stalled the drive, Jackson fired a dart over the middle in stride to Ryan Hoag for a 26-yard gain to the Steelers 13-yard line. After a 3-yard run by Ciatrick Fason, Jackson sealed the deal on the drive with a 4-yard screen to Owens and a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jason Carter.

For two rookie quarterbacks, the Steelers QB looked every part the rookie, while Jackson looked like a calm veteran doing his business. The combination of the Vikings defense shutting down Jacobs and the Steelers' inability to stop Jackson turned what could have been anyone's game into a 17-7 Vikings lead that would never truly be challenged.


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