Rookie Tarvaris Jackson entered Sunday's game with 25 seconds left in the third quarter and nearly doubled Brad Johnson's passing yardage by the time the game was over, but head coach Brad Childress wasn't ready to name a starter for Thursday night's game against the Packers just yet.
"I'm not anticipating anything. I don't need to make that decision right now," Childress said Sunday.
With a short week of preparation, Childress will not be addressing the media on Monday either. Likely, he will keep his decision within the walls of Winter Park and ask his players to do the same thing, citing a competitive advantage.
But Childress did address why he went to his rookie quarterback in the second half.
"I thought we needed a spark. I didn't think we played considerably well around Brad (Sunday), whether it was running the football or protecting him. Somebody had to make some plays around the guy. But I thought we needed a spark there and a change, and that's why Tarvaris went in," Childress said.
Jackson was under center for four drives. The first ended much like the Vikings' previous drives under Johnson – with a punt – but on Jackson's second drive, Mewelde Moore provided some excitement with some elusive moves on his way to taking a screen pass 35 yards for a touchdown.
"It gave us a spark, and I think that is why coach made the move to try and get a spark on offense," safety Darren Sharper said. "We've just got to get something going, and I think Tarvaris came in and did an excellent job in the situation he was brought in, and it shows his potential."
Johnson finished completing 10 of 17 passes for 96 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. Jackson was 14-for-23 for 177 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Jackson did show that he isn't a polished product just yet. On his third series, when the Vikings still had hope down by 13 points, he forced a pass into the end zone on third down that was intercepted. The Vikings certainly would have gone for it on fourth down in that situation.
But Jackson did provide a boost for an offense that had become stagnant, and cornerback Antoine Winfield wasn't surprised at how Jackson performed.
"He's a good player. You can see it in practice when he is working with the scout team. He has a good arm, is smart, accurate (and) showed that he could play," Winfield said.
Even the competition took notice.
"We actually looked on him in film and the difference between him and Brad Johnson is like you said – he is more mobile," said Jets cornerback Hank Poteat. "But he also has a stronger throw, whereas Brad Johnson usually throws more touch passes. He tried to give us some different looks and we tried to give him some different defensive looks. I think he'll be a pretty good quarterback."
Jackson said if he does start on Thursday night in Green Bay, he expects to be given a full menu of plays.
"I think Coach will give me everything. You never know, we have a different game plan every week. So the offense may look different every week. If they are giving us the pass, we are going to take it. If they are giving us the run, we are going to take it," said Jackson, who added that Johnson was supportive of him during the game.
"He just told me to just go out there and have fun and just play smart. I appreciate that. A lot of the stuff I did out there today, he helped me with a lot of that stuff just by watching him."
While the players appreciated what Jackson brought to the offense, they didn't like to hear Johnson getting booed.
"It is very hard. I don't want to see that happen. Sometimes fans don't understand it is more to being a quarterback than just throwing touchdowns," Jackson said. "He is the leader of the team and he is still going to lead the team. It is hard for me to see the fans boo him like that."
Tight end Jermaine Wiggins said he figured the more established professionals are able to block it out.
"You try to just block out everything. Obviously as a player you try to block it out," Wiggins said. "You got a job to do. Brad is a pro, he's been in this a long time so he's not going to let that affect him. Like I said, you just got to go out there and play."
SO THERE'S A SHOT?
Childress pointed out that the Vikings aren't yet eliminated from the playoffs, despite their 6-8 record. That's true, but they will need some help from any number of the seven teams bunched up for two NFC wild card spots.
"If we cannot win a game, we don't get in, so it doesn't really matter," said cornerback Antoine Winfield.
But Sharper continued to hold out hope.
"The fact of the matter is if we win our next two we will be 8-8, have slim, slim hopes. We would be wishing on a star a little bit, but there is still a chance."
Childress said he inserted Troy Williamson for a kickoff return and cornerback Charles Gordon for a punt return to provide a spark.
Williamson's return went for 21 yards, about an average performance, while Gordon muffed his punt return but recovered the ball.
"Just a different spark," Childress said of Williamson's return. "We almost had him take the opening kickoff return, just by virtue of what the return was. Paul (Ferraro, special teams coordinator) and I had talked about those two guys and possibly splitting them up in that return."
RIGHT TACKLES, WRONG COUNT
Second-round draft choice Ryan Cook made his first start at right tackle, but his performance left something to be desired.
Cook was flagged for holding and a false start, and he appeared to get beat a number of times.
Cook was replaced by Mike Rosenthal for one series, but Rosenthal had a false start on his first snap on offense.
"Obviously it's disappointing to be the most penalized team in the National Football League," Childress said. "That's the one advantage the offense has is the snap count, so we should stay onsides."
Notebook: Players Like Jackson's Spark
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