Good morning, everyone. . .a little less than 36 hours from now, we should be at halftime of the Vikings' latest "biggest game of the season," and (hopefully) have a good idea of what we're going to need to do in Week 17 to get into the post-season. If things break the way we want them to, the Week 17 game at Denver could be a meaningless game, as it's entirely possible that we could have a berth sewn up by then. Of course, such a scenario involves the Beloved Purple beating the Redskins above everything else.
I think that the only way the Vikings lose this game is if they revert to being the Vikings of the first half of the season. At first blush, the Redskins' offense looks to be "okay," ranking 17th in yardage (11th rushing, 15th passing), but only 21st in scoring (19.6 ppg). The difference is that the Redskins are now starting journeyman Todd Collins at quarterback. Collins looked pretty good coming out of the bullpen against Chicago a couple of weeks ago, and followed that up by looking absolutely putrid against the New York Football Giants last Sunday night, proving that starting at QB in the NFL is a much different animal than making a relief appearance after the starter has gone down.
As I said a few weeks ago, I'm much less scared of the Todd Collins-led Washington Redskins than I would be of the Jason Campbell-led Redskins. The Redskins beat the Giants last week largely due to the performance of Clinton Portis, who ran for 126 yards and a TD on 25 carries. Raise your hand if you think the #1 rush defense in the NFL is going to allow anything even remotely resembling such a thing to happen this Sunday night.
looks around, doesn't notice any hands being raised
Yeah. . .me either.
The Vikings, on the other hand, needed the kind of game they played on Monday night, in my opinion. Over the course of their win streak, they were blowing teams out, not really getting tested, and so forth. But on Monday night, the Vikings went out and did what playoff-caliber teams do. . .they took the field, didn't play their "A-game," and managed a victory anyway. They turned the ball over 4 times, coming out at -3 in turnover ratio, and still came out on top. Yes, I know that it was only against the uber-disappointing Chicago Bears, but still. . .this is the National Football League. Crazy stuff happens in the NFL. . .hell, the Beloved Purple still being alive for a playoff spot after the way they started is all the proof you need of that.
But I think the player that will benefit most from Monday's game will be the guy that might have had the worst performance. . .that being young Tarvaris Jackson. Yes, he did throw the three interceptions (only two of which were really his fault, but those two were really, REALLY awful passes) and was credited for a fumble lost (although it wasn't his fault the ball hit the turf), but yardage-wise and completion percentage-wise he had a decent game, going 18/29 for 249 yards (a career best). However, I think there was something bigger than that.
Think back to the end of the first half. Chicago has just scored a TD after Jackson throws a horrible interception to Nathan Vasher. The Vikings get the football back on their own 27-yard line with 23 seconds left in the half and one timeout in their pocket. I know for a fact that I was screaming at the TV for the Vikings to just take a knee and go into the locker room at halftime before anything else bad could happen. . .and I'd be willing to wager that a lot of you out there were, too.
But after an incompletion in the direction of Robert Ferguson, Jackson scrambled 18 yards, followed by Charles Tillman being an idiot. . .or, as I like to call it "being Charles Tillman". . .and hitting Jackson out of bounds. That moved the ball to the Chicago 40. Jackson then hit Sidney Rice on a 10-yard slant to move the ball to the 30, called the last time out, and then stood on the sidelines as Ryan Longwell blasted one through the uprights from 48 yards out. The field goal let the Vikings go into the locker room only being down by one score (13-6) instead of two.
In my opinion, that should have signaled to Jackson that Brad Childress is ready and willing to put the ball in his hands in a big situation. Yes, we could have sat on the ball going into the locker room, but Childress decided to put faith in his young quarterback instead. At the time, I thought he was crazy for doing so, given what Jackson had just done, but looking back, it's something he should be applauded for.
Frankly, for all the crap Jackson has taken this season. . .this article from Fox Sports being a prime example. . .he really hasn't been as bad as a lot of people are trying to make him out to be. Yes, the "numbers" might say otherwise, but let's examine that a little more closely for a second. He's completing right around 59% of his passes. . .which, for a second-year player, isn't bad. His TD to interception ratio isn't spectacular (6 TD/10 INT), but keep in mind that of those 10 INTs, 7 of them came in two games. . .Week 2 against Detroit when he threw 4 (and he subsequently ripped Detroit the second time those teams got together) and Monday night against Chicago. So in the other 8 games he's played, he's thrown either 0 or 1 INTs, which is exactly what he's being asked to do in this offensive system. . .don't screw up.
The obvious thing that the Fox Sports article posted above fails to point out in that all 8 of Minnesota's victories this year, Tarvaris Jackson has taken the opening snap from center. Kelly Holcomb and Brooks Bollinger, who Michael Smith suggests are both better options than Jackson, are a combined 0-4 this season. . .and the last time we saw Bollinger, he was leading the Vikings to their first regular season shutout loss in forever. Jackson's not a superstar by any means, and in this offense he doesn't have to be. . .but to suggest that he "doesn't have any idea how to play quarterback in the NFL" is ludicrous.
Jackson is developing, and so is the rest of this team. . .and they'll continue to develop into next season. But for now, I think that #7 is the best shot we have at QB for a playoff run. I think that on Sunday night, we're going to see more of the Jackson that we saw in the four weeks prior to the Bears game and less of what we saw on Monday night.