NFC North title a start for Vikings

The Vikings are still dealing with the disappointment of losing their first playoff game in the Brad Childress tenure, but their first division title offers some consolation.

A lot of things didn't work for the Vikings in their 26-14 playoff loss to the Eagles on Sunday.

Nonetheless, there had to be a level of satisfaction with the fact that in his third season coach Brad Childress' team continued to show improvement. The Vikings were 6-10 in Childress' first season and 8-8 in his second.

"You guys (in the media) characterize it any way you want," Childress said. "I think to win the division is a starting point. Obviously, you start the season and you want to win the Super Bowl. I know that there are a lot of predictions that get made, whether you were picking the Green Bay Packers to win the division or the Dallas Cowboys to go to the Super Bowl, or the Minnesota Vikings. That's why you play the games. At the end, to win 10 in the regular season and win the division was a start."

What went right: Obviously, winning the division had to be considered a big step in the right direction. The Vikings' biggest three offseason moves paid off.

Defensive end Jared Allen, obtained from Kansas City for three draft picks and then signed to a six-year, $74.5 million contract, finished the regular season with a team-leading 14.5 sacks. Wide receiver Bernard Berrian, signed to a six-year, $42 million contract as a free agent from Chicago, led the Vikings with 964 yards receiving and tied for the team lead with seven touchdowns. Safety Madieu Williams, a free agent signed from Cincinnati, missed the first seven games because of a neck injury but returned for the final nine games as the Vikings went 7-2.

Of course, the biggest plus for the Vikings was the play of Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson. His 1,760 yards on the ground made him the first Vikings player to lead the NFL in rushing.

What went wrong: The Vikings entered the season with a plan to have Tarvaris Jackson as their starting quarterback. It didn't work out as Childress envisioned.

When the Vikings lost at Green Bay in their opener and then at home against Indianapolis, Childress decided to bench Jackson and start veteran Gus Frerotte. Frerotte might not have been a world beater but he did go 8-3 as the starter. That helped the Vikings rebound from a 1-3 start.

The only problem was Frerotte injured his back on Dec. 7 at Detroit, forcing Jackson back onto the field. Jackson played so well in rallying the Vikings to victory against the Lions and then leading them over Arizona the following week that he held onto the starting job.

But Jackson reverted to his old form against the Eagles and had a subpar 45.4 passer rating. That leaves the question of whether Jackson will return as the starter next season or if the Vikings will go in another direction.

It's almost certain that Frerotte won't be back, so once again the Vikings are going to have to make a decision about one of the most important positions on the field.

NOTES

  • OT Ryan Cook got his fifth start in six weeks at right tackle. Artis Hicks, who replaced Cook in late November, was active for a second consecutive week after missing time because of a triceps injury.

  • DE Ray Edwards sat out Sunday because of an injury to his left knee that he suffered the previous week against the New York Giants. Brian Robison replaced Edwards at the left end spot.

  • RB Adrian Peterson had two rushing touchdowns against the Eagles on Sunday, tying a team playoff record for a single game. Four other Vikings have accomplished the feat.

  • S Darren Sharper had to leave Sunday's game in the second quarter because of a high ankle sprain. He was replaced by rookie Tyrell Johnson, who might move into that spot full time next season. Sharper will be a free agent this offseason.

  • NT Pat Williams missed his third consecutive game because of a broken scapula. Fred Evans and Jimmy Kennedy split snaps in place of Williams.



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