Jackson's overall completion percentage in that game wasn't stellar – just 51.6 percent for only 175 yards. But it was consecutive drives in the fourth quarter that left Vikings coach Brad Childress contemplating the possibilities for the future?
"I'm on the record talking about Tarvaris (Jackson). I like the progress that he's made," Childress said. "I would have liked to have seen 16 games. I believe he played in 12. I would have liked to have seen him make the jump there against the competition. I think we'd all like to believe that what he did in that last little bit of that Denver game where he played wide-open football and brought us back from a couple touchdowns back and put us into overtime is the guy we'll be able to see operate as we start next fall."
The first bit of sudden magic from Jackson came on a drive that started with 8:04 to play. He engineered an eight-play, no-huddle pass-and-run act that resulted in a 5-yard touchdown pass to Bobby Wade. On the next Vikings drive, Jackson needed less than two minutes to concoct a five-play, 60-yard drive that ended with a 22-yard touchdown that tied the game with 2:21 to play.
His efficiency in those two drives had the coaching staff thinking.
"Could he run a no-huddle offense from the first snap of the game? Well, you'd love to have him do that. That's certainly something we'll look at and investigate, and it creates a whole (new) dimension for a defensive coordinator to no-huddle," Childress said. "Now you're putting pressure on them. I think early on as you're trying to insulate a young quarterback – and everybody said it, you have a strong run game, but by the same token you don't want to be run, run, pass on third down. You'd like to be able to – if people are going to give us an eight-man-in-the-box because Adrian Peterson is back there – if it's a deal where we have to come out in the first quarter and we have to throw eight times in a row or 10 and just say, ‘Hey, we're serious about this. If you're going to stand out here on one-on-ones, we'll rip you to smitherines.'"
That was a constant theme with the Vikings this year at the end of the season – they weren't able to take advantage of teams stacked to stop the running game.
But the team's final-game dilemma, when they trailed 19-3 with 8 minutes left, forced Jackson and the play-calling into a hurry-up mode to try to take advantage of what was likely a softer Broncos defense willing to cede shorter passing plays.
"It was more of a had-to-do-it type of situation. We weren't buying back more clock. We had to go down and do things in a hurry," Childress said. "You learn to handle the situation, the calls at the line of scrimmage, the blitzes, the adjusts, making plays moving to the side, pulling it down and running with it – just things you can't coach.
"He was playing, and that's what you like to see. He was playing the game. Was it always clean? No, but very rarely is it clean."
In some ways, being put into a situation like that earlier in the season may have given the Vikings more confidence to use it as a strategy to get their passing game succeeding, but Childress said Jackson may not have performed as well in that situation earlier in the season. He is still developing, and Childress referenced the three- to five-year window to develop a quarterback several times in interviews Friday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Still, seeing Jackson perform well in those conditions may get Childress to investigate the possibilities in a preseason game next year.
"It'll be a planned-out deal. … I could make an argument this year of throwing it every down in a preseason game, when they don't mean anything," he said. "Has there ever been a game played where every (play) is a run or every one is a pass? No. But there will be different points of emphasis."
Despite eventually losing that game 22-19 in overtime when the Broncos kicked a field goal immediately after recovering a Jackson fumble, the final eight minutes of regulation in the final regular-season game may have convinced the Vikings to continue developing Jackson as the starter in his third season in the league. "I like the way our guy (Jackson) is ascending, and he rarely made the same mistake twice. But I don't think you can put a premium on those live snaps," Childress said. "You can do everything you want in a red shirt, you can do everything in the offseason on air – the OTAs, the training camp, where your quarterback is not live in preseason. When you get that flurry coming at you, that's the thing."
Childress was asked if his commitment to Jackson means he isn't looking for a veteran in free agency, and he wouldn't commit to that statement.
"Sixty quarterbacks played in the NFL last year. You'd better have somebody that's a viable candidate that if your guy breaks his leg like Aaron Rodgers, you've got the next guy," Childress said, referencing depth at the position. "I'm a big competition. Challenge, competition – you've got to create that in camp."
Can the Vikings create competition at the quarterback position with the players currently on the roster – Jackson, Brooks Bollinger and Kelly Holcomb?
"We'll see," he said. "We'll see."
Green was released by the Dolphins and Lemon is scheduled to become a free agent on Feb. 29.