Jackson continued his stretch of three straight games of efficient quarterback play and his ability to now proficiently play off a strong running game could be the difference between the team's early-season blues and their playoff push.
On Sunday against the Lions, Jackson completed 18 of 25 passes for 204 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 110.4 passer rating.
"I thought he had good command of the football. I thought he put the ball in good spots for his wide receivers, which is key if you want any yards after the catch," Childress said. "He had a poor decision, I thought, obviously, trying to stick that ball in at the flag (on his only interception). It's still a work in progress."
Jackson connected with nine different receivers against Detroit, but only two of them – Sidney Rice and Bobby Wade – had more than two receptions. Rice finished with five catches for 53 yards and a high-jumping touchdown reception, and Wade had four catches for 54 yards and a sliding touchdown grab. Both passes were placed where Childress likes them – high toward the back of the end zone and low near the goal line.
"I actually think he is gaining confidence more and more as we go along," Rice said of Jackson. "He is coming out, he is making his reads, he is completing passes, we are scoring touchdowns. So I think he is doing a tremendous job."
Jackson seems to be making progress in numerous areas of his game, including gaining the confidence of his teammates.
"It's just the point of letting your guys gain confidence in you. You know you can do it. They've seen you do it in practice day in and day out, but thing is I just want to do it in a game so the coaches can see that you can do it," Jackson said. "Your teammates … always stand behind me, but at the same time you want to go out there and perform so they can have confidence in you."
Jackson seems to be getting better at going through his progressions and more comfortable in the pocket. His sense of timing is getting better and he's opting to forego a forced pass and run for a first down on the occasions that call for that sort of improvisation. On Sunday, he rushed five times for 20 yards, including two kneel-downs at the end of game.
After a 34-0 blowout by the Green Bay Packers, a game in which Jackson did not play, the Vikings – and especially their offense – have rebounded. With a 6-2 record as a starter this season, Jackson's three most recent outings, all wins, have been the best of his young career.
In a win over Oakland, he completed 77.3 percent of his passes for a 79.9 passer rater. He increased those numbers to 83.3 percent completions and 139.2 rating in limited passing action against the New York Giants – he only needed to throw 12 passes in that defensive-scoring rout. He threw the ball more against the Lions on Sunday – 24 times – and completed 75 percent of those passes for a 110.4 rating.
He has also run the ball 13 times in the last three games.
Adrian Peterson, the more accomplished runner, said he believes Jackson is maturing and gaining more confidence.
"He is definitely communicating more to us. You can just tell looking into his eyes that he is more confident and he is just stepping up and being a leader on the offensive side of the ball," Peterson said.
Eventually, Jackson's performance may even be able to assist the running game the way that strongpoint of the Vikings offense is making life easier for Jackson.
"They definitely are going to have to respect the pass game. We definitely are picking up in the pass game and that is something they are going to have to respect," Peterson said.
Even the opposing coaches are noticing a progression in Jackson's game as the season progresses.
"They executed very well," Lions coach Rod Marinelli said. "They were a good team in September or the first time we played them. They are good team and have good talent. They can run the ball. Their quarterback is getting better and their defense is playing well."
BLOCKERS BY DESIGN
Once again, Childress made sure to compliment the blocking of his wide receivers and said one of the officials also made a note of that to him.
"I believe that the wide receivers blocked probably as well as I have seen," Childress said. "I had an official at the end of the game tell me, ‘Coach, I don't think I have ever seen wide receivers block like this since I have been officiating in the National Football League,' which is quite a statement, even though we did have one wide receiver holding out there on one of those runs."
The Lions entered the game ranked ninth in rush defense, allowing an average of 95.8 yards rushing per game. The Vikings had 216 yards rushing, dropping Detroit to the 15th-ranked rush defense on Monday.