Inexperience at quarterback cripples Vikings

Tarvaris JacksonEven though he had quarterbacked his team to a 3-1 finish down the stretch of the regular season, questions remained about whether or not Tarvaris Jackson should start under center when the Minnesota Vikings eventually claimed a spot in the postseason.

Although not definitively, those questions were answered Sunday when the Vikings fell to the sixth-seeded Philadelphia Eagles 26-14 in the final game of Wild Card weekend.

Jackson wasn’t bad, but he was largely ineffective. He completed 15 of 35 passes for just 164 yards and threw a costly interception in which Philly cornerback Asante Samuel returned for a 43-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Despite having some success using his legs over the past month, Jackson also only attempted to run the ball twice while finishing with 17 yards on those two carries.

Jackson got plenty of help from Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor and the running game, which totaled 148 yards against a solid Philadelphia defense. Peterson also had two touchdowns despite getting dinged up in the first half, and provided a spark early in the second quarter with his 40-yard touchdown run.

But despite only being down 16-14 at halftime, Jackson couldn’t make enough plays in the passing game to produce a single point for Minnesota in the second half. As expected, Philly defensive coordinator Jim Johnson used a variety of blitz packages to confuse the young signal caller and even when the Viking defense produced key scoring opportunities by creating turnovers, Jackson and the offense still couldn’t muster even a field goal.

Not that Jackson looked rattled because he didn’t, but it’s hard for a young quarterback playing in his first playoff game to be extraordinary, which he certainly was not. Brad Childress’s game plan was to run the ball effectively with Peterson and then allow Jackson to take shots in the passing game in hopes Philly’s defense would start to inch closer to the line of scrimmage. Although the running game was good, Eagles’ defensive backs blanketed Viking receivers and limited the big plays by keeping everything in front of them and making sound tackles.

You can’t fault Childress for going with Jackson (I certainly don’t, especially when you consider Gus Frerotte hadn’t played in over a month), because Tarvaris had the hot hand. He was the quarterback that got the Vikings to the playoffs by playing so well down the stretch. But in the end, Jackson’s inexperience doomed Minnesota and some might question why the more seasoned Frerotte wasn’t under center for the Vikes’ most important game of the year.

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