For three years, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson has been a controversial subject with Vikings fans. Anointed the starter in his second season, injuries and inconsistency have made him the subject of trade rumors that he could be the quarterback that leaves the Vikings Saturday. Following Friday's game, he seemed resigned to the fact that the decision is out of his control.
While most of the Vikings' starters were either not in uniform or not playing in Friday night's preseason finale, one player who could understandably have mixed emotions about the game is quarterback Tarvaris Jackson
When 2009 began, Jackson was the Vikings starter. By February, he was going to be part of a competition with Sage Rosenfels
. By August, his name was being thrown around as potentially the odd man out with the Vikings. The subject of trade rumors the last week, Jackson's future with the Vikings has been held in limbo.
Despite hearing his name repeatedly mentioned in potential trade talks, Jackson said he isn't getting too worked up over the talk. He knows the final decision isn't his and sweating it out wouldn't accomplish anything.
"Honestly, it hasn't been that difficult," Jackson said. "Of course you want to know. But, at the same time, I feel if it doesn't work out here, it will somewhere else. I'm confident in that. I really can't control it. I try not to worry myself about things I can't control."
Jackson said he knows that he has been given the opportunity to take the starting job by the horns and make it his own. The fact that he hasn't is something he finds frustrating, but he said that, whatever the news that comes tomorrow – whether he stays or goes – he will have a place in the NFL, even if it isn't with the Vikings.
"I've not been great the last three years, but if I don't get another shot here, I'll get a shot somewhere else," Jackson said. "My mind isn't on that right now. I'm enjoying my time being a Viking. If it ends, that's fine. If it don't, that's great. I'd love to be here. It's all I know. I'm going on my fourth year now and this is the only team I've ever played for. If it happens and I stay here, I would love it. But at the same time, I know it's a business and I know how things go. I'm not going to be disappointed. I'm not going to be mad. I'll keep moving."
GAME DAY NOTES
The Vikings missed out on having their first perfect preseason in nine years, finishing 3-1. All four teams from the NFC North finished the preseason with 3-1 records.
In the first three preseason games combined, the Vikings and their opponents scored a total of 73 points. In Friday's game, the Vikings and Cowboys combined for 66 points.
After losing the yardage battle most of the game, the Vikings end up outgaining the Cowboys 369-310. The Vikings had 242 passing yards and 127 rushing yards on 41 carries. The Cowboys threw for 218 yards and had 92 rushing yards on 27 carries.
The Cowboys converted 8 of 13 third-down opportunities (62 percent), while the Vikings converted just 6 of 15 third downs.
When the two teams got in the red zone, they made good on their chances. The Cowboys got touchdowns on both of their trips into the red zone and the Vikings made good on two of three chances with touchdowns.
On four punts, the Cowboys averaged 54 yards per kick while the Vikings averaged just 33.8 yards on their four punts.
The Vikings had some pretty dismal passing numbers. Sage Rosenfels completed 7 of 15 passes for 115 yards with no TDs and one interception, for a passer rating of 45.1. John David Booty completed 7 of 13 passes for 85 yards with no touchdowns and one interception, finishing with a passer rating of 42.1.
The Vikings let their inexperienced running back carry the mail Friday. Ian Johnson led the way with 17 carries for 61 yards and Albert Young had 19 carries for 55 yards. Johnson also had three receptions for 26 yards.
While the Vikings' backup quarterbacks struggled, the Cowboys' Rudy Carpenter was very solid, completing 12 of 18 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown, for a passer rating of 105.1.
The Cowboys spread the ball around in the passing game, with eight players catching two or more passes, but nobody catching more than three.
After having a near-flawless preseason, the Vikings' special teams got scorched on one of the stranger plays you will ever see. Punting from the Dallas 35-yard line, Chris Kluwe's punt hit at the 5-yard line and came backward into the field of play. As Cowboys jumped out of the way, the ball came back to wide receiver Jesse Holley, who turned and had just Kluwe to beat. He swatted him away with a stiff-arm and was gone for an improbable 82-yard touchdown that turned out to be the game-winning points.
The only points scored by the Dallas offense came on their first drive of the fourth quarter. Carpenter engineered a 67-yard, 14-play drive that ate 7:36 off the game clock to get the Cowboys within three points midway through the fourth quarter.
Bobby Williams made the highlight film late in the third quarter with a nice catch in traffic on a bomb from Rosenfels, good for 47 yards and would lead to a field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Asher Allen made a big impression in the third quarter. On a play in which he faked a blitz to cross up Carpenter, when the Cowboys called a running play, Allen filled the gap he was threatening to use on a blitz and forced a fumble that would eventually result in another touchdown for the Vikings.
Erin Henderson was injured on kick return coverage early in the third quarter and appeared to be unconscious. The injury was serious enough that Brad Childress came out to the field and Childress said Henderson was conscious by the time he got out there. Henderson remained on the turf for a couple of minutes before he got up and was limping badly, favoring his right knee.
If Patrick Watkins was in jeopardy of being cut by the Cowboys, he made a strong case for himself, making several plays in the first half and, on the first play of the second half, intercepting Rosenfels and returning the pick 23 yards to cut the Vikings lead to 21-14 just six seconds into the second half.
The pick by Rosenfels was the first turnover of the preseason for the Vikings. Fourth QB John David Booty did little better. His first pass was intercepted by linebacker Steve Octavien and returned 44 yards for a touchdown with 12:25 to play in the third quarter – giving Dallas 14 points without its offense taking the field.
The Cowboys held a significant yardage advantage in the first half, outgaining the Vikings 221-138. Dallas had 175 yards passing and 45 yards rushing, while the Vikings had 110 yards passing and 28 yards rushing. Dallas held the ball for 17:30 of the first 30 minutes.
Individually in the first half, Rosenfels completed 6 of 10 passes for 68 yards, while Jackson's night ended with him completing 2 of 4 passes for 42 yards and a touchdown, earning a passer rating of 127.1. Johnson led all Vikings with 21 yards on six carries, while Young had just 6 yards on seven rushes. Young and Reynaud each had two catches, but the yardage leaders were Dugan (36) and Jaymar Johnson (28). For Dallas in the first half, Kitna completed 9 of 14 passes for 100 yards with a TD and an interception. Carpenter completed 5 of 6 passes for 81 yards. Choice had seven carries for 23 yards to lead all rushers, with Bennett catching three passes for 51 yards.
The Vikings didn't have a penalty called against them in the first half.
Apparently Childress was taking the fourth preseason game pretty seriously. Not only did he go for a touchdown on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line with two minutes to play in the half, but, when the Cowboys were willing to run the ball to kill the remaining clock, the Vikings called two timeouts and got the ball back. Unfortunately for them, it just about backfired, as Ryan Longwell's subsequent 51-yard field goal attempt was blocked and, on the final play of the half, the Cowboys completed a 52-yard Hail Mary pass to tight end John Phillips, who was tackled on the 5-yard line to prevent an unlikely touchdown.
Percy who? Darius Reynaud made a case for staying on the team, fielding a line-drive punt with a little less than 10 minutes to play in the first half and racing 81 yards for a touchdown. However, it should be noted that there was very poor tackling by the Cowboys.
Reynaud's 81-yard punt return touchdown was the longest punt return for a score in Vikings preseason history.
Letroy Guion had a defensive lineman's dream and nightmare in the same play. Guion alertly picked off a pass deflected by DE Kenny Onatolu. He took off with dreams of a touchdown, but, as he tried to switch the ball from his right arm to his left arm, he fumbled the ball. Fortunately, the Vikings would recover on the Dallas 25-yard line and go in for their second touchdown of the game.
The Vikings were dominating on the stat sheet in the first quarter despite being tied 7-7. Dallas outgained the Vikings 122-47, with the Cowboys running 22 plays to just six for the Vikings. The Cowboys had 76 yards passing and 46 yards rushing, while the Vikings had 42 yards passing and 5 yards rushing.
Albert Young had all four of the Vikings rushing attempts in the first quarter, gaining just 5 yards. Jackson completed 2 of 4 passes for 42 yards and a touchdown, with Dugan's 36-yard TD catch providing most of it. For the Cowboys, Choice had six carries for 22 yards and Kitna completed 8 of 11 passes for 81 yards. Bennett led the way with three catches for 51 yards.
Dallas had a really brutal 16 seconds midway through the first quarter. With a 7-0 lead and getting the ball for the second time, Kitna mishandled the snap and Letroy Guion fell on the ball on the Dallas 36-yard line. One play later, Jackson connected with Jeff Dugan for a 36-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7.
The Cowboys didn't waste much time in getting their second-team offense rolling. On the first drive of the game, Dallas drove 72 yards on 12 plays, taking almost six minutes off the clock to take a 7-0 lead. Tight end Martellus Bennett was the big man on the drive, converting a pair of first downs on receptions of 31 and 12 yards.
The Vikings finished the preseason with a record of .500 or better in 38 of their 49 seasons.
Of the other 37 previous times the Vikings have finished .500 or better, they have finished .500 or better in the regular season in 30 of those years.
Friday was the fourth consecutive year that the Vikings have closed out the preseason with a game against the Cowboys.
The captains for Friday's game were Kevin Williams, E.J. Henderson and Ryan Longwell.
The attendance was announced at 63,334 – the 117th straight sellout of the Metrodome. Many of those 63,334 came disguised as empty seats.