The production of quarterback Tarvaris Jackson isn't getting better, it's getting worse. See the numbers that tell of his decline and get more than 30 game-day notes that help explain the 24-14 loss to the Cowboys.
A week ago, when Tarvaris Jackson
completed just 9 of 23 passes for 136 yards, it was lost in the shadows of the franchise-record rushing day put in by Adrian Peterson
. Sunday, with the Cowboys doing their best to contain Peterson, the onus of bringing home a second straight road victory fell squarely on the shoulders of Jackson. For the first time, he was asked to be the leader. He didn't answer the call.
Jackson's performance was even worse this time around. He completed only 6 of 19 passes for 72 yards and, after leading the team on a scoring drive in their first possession, he completed just 4 of 16 passes for 57 yards.
From the third play of the opening drive (5:19 left in the first quarter) until just 5:48 remained in the third quarter, Jackson had thrown six passes and completed none. The fact that the Vikings were tied 14-14 was amazing since Jackson went slightly less than two full quarters of clock time without a completion. It can be blamed on field position. It can be blamed on pressure from the Cowboys' 3-4 defense. It can be blamed on poor blocking up front. It can be blamed on a lot of things. But the Vikings' defensive front pressured Tony Romo
and he found ways to slide around in the pocket to avoid the pressure and deliver accurate passes. Jackson had a chance for a first down on a deep crossing route to Bobby Wade
that would have given the Vikings a first down inside the Dallas 20. Wade was open. Jackson waited too long and allowed safety Roy Williams
to close the gap and slap away the underthrown pass. Jackson had a couple of chances on deep balls with single coverage, but failed to connect on them.
Brad Childress has shown a lot of faith in Jackson, but has that faith been rewarded? After failing to make any attempt to re-sign veteran Brad Johnson
, make a move in free agency to get a veteran guy like Jeff Garcia
, using draft day to try to trade to get the free-falling Brady Quinn
or making a trade with Atlanta to get Matt Schaub
, Childress' only move was to sign Kelly Holcomb
when he was disgusted with Jackson's backup cast. Jackson was his guy.
While it's tough on any young quarterback, most observers have viewed Jackson's 2007 as an audition for being the permanent fixture behind center. Otherwise, the Vikings are expected to shop around in free agency next year when a potential larger crop of free-agent QBs are expected to be available. Jackson's performances to date have done nothing to solidify his position. In the opening win vs. Atlanta, he completed just 13 of 23 passes for 163 yards with one TD and one interception. In his second game vs. Detroit, he completed 17 of 33 passes for 166 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions. In his third game against the Bears, he went 9-for-23 for 136 yards. Sunday, it was 6 of 19 for only 72 yards.
Do you see the trend? The completion percentage is going down with each game and the yardage totals have become a death spiral as well. If Jackson is auditioning to keep this job, he and Childress may find their professional careers unfortunately tied together.
GAME DAY NOTES
The Cowboys dominated in just about statistical category available. They had twice as many first downs (22-11), almost double the yardage (381-196), a monstrous time of possession edge (36:25 to 23:25) and 22 more plays from scrimmage (71-49).
The Vikings woes on third down may have hit a new low Sunday. The Vikes converted on just two of 12 third-down attempts – one in the first half and one in the second half.
The Cowboys averaged six yards per every pass attempt – which is more than 2.5 less than Tony Romo has had during the season to date. But that total was double the Vikings' average of 3.0 yards per pass attempt.
Because the Vikings' only touchdown came from the 20-yard line, it didn't count as a red zone possession, which still has the Vikings at just six red zone possessions in six games this season – by far the lowest total in the NFL. In contrast, the Cowboys got in the red zone four times on Sunday – coming away with two touchdowns and a field goal.
Romo was just the latest in a long line of quarterbacks that have put together solid passing days against the Vikings. He completed 31 of 39 passes for 277 yards and a touchdown, but in the second half he threw only seven passes, completing three for 46 yards.
The Vikings didn't allow a 100-yard rusher, but if time hadn't been running out, they might have. Marion Barber finished the game with 96 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown. But his game was one of two segments. Through the first 54 minutes of the game, Barber had 10 carries for 31 yards. In the final six minutes, he carried nine straight times for 65 yards to inflate that total.
Barber's 21-yard run in the Cowboys' final drive was the longest run of the season against the Vikings defense. Two plays later, it become the second longest when Barber broke off a 24-yard run.
The Vikings only had 27 carries as a team Sunday. Peterson's 12 carries tied for his lowest total of the season and his 63 yards rushing was his lowest single-game total of his short career. Chester Taylor had 47 yards on 10 carries.
Taylor caught half of the Vikings' passes (three) and three others – Bobby Wade, Troy Williamson and Peterson – had one catch each.
Not only did the Vikings not have a tight end with a reception, none of the pass attempts during the game went in the direction of tight ends.
Dallas had no problem finding its tight end, Jason Witten. He caught a team-high 10 passes for 86 yards, while the "Original 81" Terrell Owens caught seven passes for 103 yards and a touchdown.
E.J. Henderson quietly put together a strong defensive game, with 11 tackles (eight solo). Antoine Winfield had eight tackles (six solo) and a forced fumble, while Chad Greenway had eight tackles (five solo).
Sunday's win was the first time the Cowboys have been 6-1 to start a season since 1995 when Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin still ruled the roost in Dallas.
The Vikings are 2-4 for the second time in three years.
Ryan Cook had a pretty rough day. His number was called to the attention of fans three times. He was called for a false start that killed a drive at midfield. He was late to the field for a field goal attempt that forced the Vikings to burn a timeout only to have the kick blocked and returned for a touchdown. And perhaps the final indignity, he was flagged for illegal formation as the uncovered lineman in a formation on a first-down incompletion, and the Cowboys were so confident the Vikings couldn't convert they declined the penalty. For the record, the Vikings didn't convert and had to punt.
Dallas defensive lineman Jason Hatcher made a huge play in the second half that killed the Vikings. He grabbed Peterson with his left arm from behind on a sweep and brought his right arm around to punch the ball loose and force a fumble that the Cowboys recovered and turned into three points to give Dallas a two-score lead.
Barber's rushing touchdown in the third quarter was the only rushing TD that Vikings have allowed all season and the Vikings challenged (and lost) that he was down before he scored – one of two timeouts burned in the second half that were somewhat unnecessary.
Owens went over 100 yards receiving with 7:30 remaining in the third quarter – he didn't catch another pass the rest of the game.
The Cowboys dominated the halftime stats – having a 16-5 edge in first downs and 250 total yards to 76 – but still trailed 14-7.
In the first quarter, Romo completed 10 of 11 passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. In the second quarter, he completed 18 of 21 passes for 153 yards.
In the first half, Barber and Julius Jones combined to rush nine times for just 36 yards. Meanwhile, the combo of Peterson and Taylor had 10 carries for 55 yards and a touchdown.
The time of possession in the first half was dominated by Dallas, which ran 43 plays to just 18 for the Vikings and had a T.O.P. edge of 20:40 to 9:20.
In the second quarter, the Vikings ran seven plays and gained seven total yards.
Owens might hear from the league following a horse collar tackle on Ben Leber during the ensuing action after a fumble by Tony Romo that was recovered by Leber, advanced 10 yards, lateraled to Cedric Griffin who fumbled, recovered his own fumble and brought it 28 yards for a touchdown.
The TD by Griffin was the first of his career and he celebrated with a Deion Sanders-like high step into the end zone.
The Vikings now have nine defensive touchdowns since the start of the 2006 season – the most of any team in the NFL.
Kevin Williams thought he had a touchdown earlier in the quarter on a fumble return for a touchdown. He didn't score, but got so exhausted that he left the field to get fluids and didn't return until the second half. The play was ruled a touchdown but brought back by a holding penalty on Ray Edwards during the return.
Kenechi Udeze, who had no sacks a year ago, had the sack that caused the fumble Williams returned for an apparent touchdown – his second sack of the year.
The Vikings' first possession was a thing of beauty – 11 plays for 69 yards and a TD. The drive included all running backs, as Peterson and Taylor combined for seven runs for 48 yards and two catches for 15 yards – capped off by a 20-yard TD run by Peterson.
The Cowboys got the game off right, eating up 8:24 to start the game with a 14-play drive ending with a touchdown pass to Owens.
The touchdown was the first TD scored by Dallas in the first quarter this year, the first time the Vikings allowed a TD on the first possession all season and just the second time in the last 22 games the Cowboys scored on their first possession.
Tank Williams replaced injured Dwight Smith as the starting safety.