Tarvaris Jackson completed 11 of 17 passes for four touchdowns and a 135.5 passer rating in the Vikings' 35-14 win over the Cardinals on Sunday. His four touchdowns were a career for him and his rating was one of the best of his career, too.
While it might seem like the Vikings are using more of the playbook with Jackson now than they were before he was benched after Week 2 of the season, Childress said it isn't a case of using "more."
"I wouldn't say more from the standpoint that we're empowering him with more. It's always all been there. We're not selective at all with what we drop our finger on and call because he's responsible for all of it. We have confidence that he can do all of it pretty well," Childress said.
Frerotte, who said last week that he was happy for Jackson's performance in Detroit, said he sees a young quarterback that is making all the throws.
"I think that's what it comes down to. He was accurate. He missed a few, but they were tight things and he didn't want to make a mistake," Frerotte said. "Sometimes that's the best thing to do as a quarterback, get rid of it. Checked a few down, which was good. Moved on one when the guy wasn't open. I think he's just made the throws. I think that's the basic thing that's improved with him."
The most impressive turnaround for Jackson might have been his ability to accurately throw the deep ball against the Cardinals. He opened the game with a long pass down the right sideline that was knocked away by cornerback Roderick Hood at the last second. Later in the quarter, another bomb down the right sideline to Bernard Berrian was exactly where it had to be and Hood wasn't able to make a play on that pass, resulting in a Vikings touchdown.
In the third quarter, Jackson capped the scoring with his fourth touchdown pass of the game. This time, he gave a shoulder fake to draw Hood toward the line of scrimmage in an attempt to jump a route, and Jackson then fired a strike to Bobby Wade between Hood and safety Adrian Wilson. Wade went on to score the longest touchdown of his career, a 59-yarder.
"We've talked before about deep ball accuracy and not balls being long foul balls, and I thought that he threw three pretty good long balls. The first one of the game he probably could have brought back more to the field a little bit," Childress said. "But I have a favorite saying, and one of my pet peeves about quarterbacks is when they throw them out of bounds, because you've heard me say there's never been a catch made out in lane one of the track yet that counted. You've got to keep it in the field; you've got to keep it in play. He had two very good deep throws – one that he had to shrug a guy to settle a little bit to go by and then had to drive it between the safety and the corner, and the other one he had to lay perfectly for Bernard to be able to catch. In terms of decisions, obviously he knew what he wanted to do, but in terms of command of the football I thought he did a great job of putting it where he wanted to."
Jackson also didn't seem to be looking to run the ball first and throw it second, a trap that mobile quarterbacks can sometimes fall into. Instead, he appeared to be more confident in his reads and more authoritative with his throws.
"It's interesting about quarterbacks that have that ability to be able to move around if you classify them. … Guys that have a tendency to stay in the pocket because they can't move usually stay in the pocket until the 11th hour and then do something with it," Childress said. "Guys that can move, it's a little bit of a double-edged sword. Because they can move, they do when something flashes to create. And you certainly don't want to coach that out of them because there's going to be a time when he's going to have to use those skills and get chased."
But even with all that positive feedback about Jackson and his award this week, Childress wasn't ready to name a starter for Sunday's game against Atlanta.
"I've got two good quarterbacks. That's a good problem to have right now," he said.
Before Frerotte took the field in Wednesday afternoon's practice, Childress said he wanted to see how Frerotte looked. In the individual drills open to the media, Frerotte looked like he was dropping back and throwing without any obvious pain and he said afterwards that "it felt good" and would need to gauge how it felt Thursday morning.
Frerotte also sees the irony in a situation that is very similar to what Daunte Culpepper went through in 2003. Culpepper suffered a fractured transverse process and was out of action, replaced by Frerotte, who led the team to a 23-13 win and followed that up with two more wins over the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons with passer ratings of 100-plus in each of those outings.
"It's kind of funny because it's almost the exact same thing. ... I think it was the same thing where I was the player of the week that week. It's like déjà vu. It's really strange. It's crazy," Frerotte said. "You just live every week and enjoy yourself. I told T-Jack, ‘Just enjoy it because you never know how long anything is going to last.'
"You know, we've been great together. I told him, whatever happens this week we're teammates and we're behind each other 100 percent."
In 2003, the Vikings went back to Culpepper after the bye week, but that didn't work out so well. After starting the season 5-0 with three starts by Culpepper and two by Frerotte, the Vikings won only one of their next four games, finished the season 9-7, and didn't make the playoffs.
Back in the present, benching Jackson while he's hot and could provide a quarterback of the future for the team likely wouldn't be a move that would sit well with fans if Frerotte would struggle against the Falcons.
"We really don't go that far ahead until we get to the end of the year and kind of make an overall analysis of things," Childress said about assessing Jackson as a starter for the future.
IMPRESSED WITH THE EXPLOSION
Childress gushed about the way the Falcons approach the game, talking about their protection of quarterback Matt Ryan, his strong decision-making skills for a rookie, and their ability to get explosive plays.
Childress said the Falcons are No. 1 in the NFL the way that he charts explosive plays – with 43 runs of 12 yards or more and 62 passes of 16 yards or more. The Vikings' opponent last week, the Arizona Cardinals, have 100 explosive plays (23 runs, 77 passes) and the Vikings have 86 (40 runs and 46 passes), according to Childress.
"Whether it goes a little bit more or it twinges on him – sometimes you can handle it, sometimes you can't. There's a chance he might have to get it fixed at the end of the year," Childress said.