Vikings Hoping Jackson Regression Just a Blip

Tarvaris Jackson had been looking like an NFL starter the month before the Vikings' latest game. The team still won on Monday night, but it was a game in which Jackson regressed after four solid showings.

Coach Brad Childress won't utter the word and his players are under strict instructions to steer clear of it as well.

But while the Vikings are busy avoiding any mention of that nasty eight-letter word, the reality of the situation is this: The Vikings' five-game winning streak means it's going to take a near miracle for this team to miss the playoffs. There, we said it.

Not bad for a team that was 3-6 at one point and appeared to be playing for draft position.

How long Minnesota is able to stick around the NFL's postseason tournament, though, is going to be the real question. And much of that will depend on the play of second-year quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.

The Vikings remained confident after extending their win streak with a 20-13 victory over the Chicago Bears last Monday night, but privately there had to be some concern over the fact that Jackson took a step backward.

Yes, he threw for a career-best 249 yards, but he also had three passes intercepted, was sacked twice, did not throw a touchdown and had a 50.0 passer rating. Not exactly the type of performance a team wants to see with only two games remaining before the playoffs begin.

"I turned the football over three times with the three interceptions. The exchange on the running back exchange, but other than that it wasn't as bad as I thought," Jackson said Wednesday. "I watched the film, and besides the interceptions and stuff I thought we played pretty well. We didn't do so bad of a job."

The first of his final two regular-season games will be Sunday night against Washington; the Vikings then close the regular season on Dec. 30 at Denver.

Jackson had been making definite progress before Monday night. A 79.9 rating in a victory over Oakland began the winning streak, followed by a 139.2 and 110.4 in victories over the New York Giants and Detroit, respectively.

Jackson followed that with a 95.9 rating against the San Francisco 49ers. During the first four games of the streak, he threw four touchdown passes and two interceptions.

If nothing else, he wasn't losing games for a team that is first in the NFL in both running the ball and against the rush.

Following the victory over the Bears, Jackson took ownership for his mistakes. A mature move but that isn't enough at this point of the season. He needs to limit any such miscues or the Vikings' season could come to a very quick end.

Clearly, Jackson should not be expected to become a suddenly seasoned quarterback. That simply wouldn't be realistic.

He struggled mightily early in the season — his first full one as a starter — and it looked as if the Vikings might have made a mistake in electing to go with him.

No one is saying Childress made a mistake any longer but many are hoping Jackson has learned enough from his mistakes that he can begin to limit them and eliminate the type of errors that could prove to be backbreakers this time of year.

SERIES HISTORY: 19th meeting. Washington leads series, 10-8, but lost, 41-7, to the Vikings the last time it played at the Metrodome on Oct. 18, 1998. Minnesota has won three of the past four meetings between these teams.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7 — Vikings players elected to the NFC Pro Bowl roster (center Matt Birk, left guard Steve Hutchinson, running back Adrian Peterson, fullback Tony Richardson, safety Darren Sharper, defensive tackle Kevin Williams and nose tackle Pat Williams.) Only Dallas (11), New England (eight) and San Diego (eight) had more players picked.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I do feel like that's a guy that is a worthy guy. He's been all over the field for our football team this year, and you keep your head down and you keep toiling. He'll get rewarded before it is over. He is playing good, good football right now." — Vikings coach Brad Childress, on middle linebacker E.J. Henderson, who was voted a second alternate on the NFC Pro Bowl team.

NOTES

The Vikings are making the best of a tough situation at right end with Ray Edwards suspended for the final four games of the regular season and Erasmus James out after having knee surgery.

This has meant extended playing time for rookie Brian Robison as well as Jayme Mitchell and recent pickup Otis Grigsby. The Vikings also are moving veteran left end Kenechi Udeze over to the right side on occasion.

It's an interesting move because Udeze played right end much of last season in James' absence and did not have a sack. Udeze, though, now has five sacks on the season to tie Edwards for the team lead after getting one Monday night against Chicago.

Udeze prefers playing on the left side, but clearly is more than willing to make the move from the base to rush end spot when needed.

  • WR Sidney Rice missed practice Wednesday because of a sprained ankle that is likely to sideline him Sunday night against Washington.

  • LB Dontarrious Thomas did not practice Wednesday because of a groin injury that has bothered him in recent weeks.

  • CB Antoine Winfield missed practice Wednesday because of a strained pectoral muscle and appears unlikely to play Sunday.

  • S Tank Williams returned to practice Wednesday on a limited basis. He has missed the past three games because of a knee injury.

  • WR Troy Williamson, who had missed two games before Monday night because of headaches that resulted from a concussion, was cleared to play Monday night against Chicago but was held out because the Vikings wanted rookie Aundrae Allison to play. Allison has proven to be a better kickoff return man than Williamson. If Rice can't go Sunday, Williamson is almost certain to play.


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