Early Impressions from a 22-19 OT Loss

Playoff hopes faded early, both in Denver and in Washington. That aside, there were plenty of negatives and positives with an eye toward the future, as certain players solidified their future, while others went the other way.

Fresh off the disappointing, encouraging, then disappointing once again 22-19 overtime loss at Denver, two players appear to have moved in opposite directions regarding their future with the Minnesota Vikings.

Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson would seemed to have solidified his status as the continuing developmental quarterback of the future for the Vikings.  He showed some flaws, but was much better than even his numbers would have indicated.  He had two horrible dropped passes (which we’ll get to soon) and at least two other catchable throws hit the ground.  He protected the ball well, until the fumble in overtime, but made some very nice throws, ran effectively and led an inspired comeback that pushed the game into overtime.

He finished completing 16 of 31 passes for 175 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and a quarterback rating of 90.1.  He also gained 36 yards rushing on four carries, including an impressive 32-yard scamper down the stretch.  A second-quarter, on-the-money bomb to a wide open Troy Williamson was dropped on what would have been a 72-yard touchdown.  The Vikings would have gone ahead 10-7 at that point.  Instead, Chester Taylor fumbled two plays later, which led directly to a Broncos touchdown and a 14-3 deficit for the Vikings.

Jackson should have completed over 65% of his passes for more than 250 yards if not for the various drops.  It might have been Jackson’s best overall performance this season.  He still has a long ways to go, and it would be dangerous to hitch your wagon to him alone again going into next season.  A better veteran option than what they had this year is needed, but Jackson solidified his position as the future guy.

Williamson, on the other hand, may have run out of chances in Minnesota.  Coming into this game, one might have thought it best to give him another chance in training camp next season (with added competition) and let things work themselves out, but his two key drops in this game might be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The impact of his first drop could be considered the difference in this game.  The drop on another on-the-money throw from Jackson on third-and-6 on the team’s first offensive series in the third quarter might have sealed his fate.

Williamson is a phenomenal pure athlete, but after three seasons he remains a raw, unrefined, terribly inconsistent and unreliable professional football player.  He’s a good, hard-working person, but it might be in everyone’s best interests if he got a fresh start elsewhere.

The dropped passes, the amateurish route where he ran himself out of bounds last week, and the various reasons he misses time are likely too much for another opportunity in Minnesota.

Other more subtle observations:

Adrian Peterson is indeed an amazing talent, but he still has plenty of finer points of the game to work on to become a complete player in the NFL.

Taylor, despite the two very costly fumbles, should not be traded.  He is simply too effective.  “They need to keep Chester Taylor,” FOX analyst Jimmy Johnson said at halftime.  “And just fill in the other areas around him.”

Mewelde Moore should have been active and returned punts all season.  He was clearly more effective and reliable at it than Bobby Wade, and moving them both in and out hindered the effectiveness of either player in the role.  The Vikings did not find and define a role for Moore and he was underutilized this season.

Wade is a very effective No. 3 receiver.  He is not a legitimate No. 1 or really even No. 2 receiver.  Rookie Sidney Rice might be their No. 2.  Robert Ferguson might be an okay No. 3.  Aundrae Allison could become a good No. 2.  But they really need a bonafide No. 1 receiver.

Tight end Garrett Mills, who saw his first action of the year against Denver, shows promise as a pass-catching tight end.

Jimmy Kleinsasser is a workmanlike soldier who does a lot of things that never get noticed.

These undersized, speed-rushing defensive ends give the big Vikings tackles problems on the pass rush.

On defense, the Vikings have a lot of good-looking players and prospects at defensive end, but they still lack a true, elite-caliber, off-the-edge pass rusher that would put them over the top.

The Vikings really missed veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield this week, more for his run support and tackling than anything.

There are plenty of things that rightly mystify some fans about head coach Brad Childress and his staff.  But from a coaching standpoint in this game, Childress & Co. coached the team to what should have been a 17-7 lead at worst in the first half, and what coulda-shoulda-woulda been a 33-12 win this week.

More to come in the days ahead as the offseason has officially begun for Vikings fans.

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