Patrick Reusse: Fans shouldn't go overboard on Jackson yet

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 14, 2007 - 8:33 PM

Before we call the quarterback a franchise savior, he needs to show us completions under more difficult circumstances.

The Vikings cruised to a 27-7 victory over San Francisco last Sunday, and the quarterback rating (95.9) made it look as though they received another effective performance from young Tarvaris Jackson.

Brad Childress supported this theory at his midweek news conference. Asked if he would classify Jackson's effort as "OK, flat or solid," the head coach said:

"I thought he did the things that were necessary to help us win. They weren't all completed, some because he didn't want to throw them there. He threw them away. ... I think he used discretion.

"I thought he threw on-time by and large. I thought he had a good mentality when he had to get out of the pocket to create plays with his feet. He has grown a little bit every week."

The impression after watching Jackson from the 49ers press box was that the first-year starter did not make a throw among his 16 completions that couldn't have been made by Eden Prairie's Ryan Grant.

That is offered as an opinion, not as an exaggeration.

There was one notable throw by Jackson early in the second quarter. On first-and-10 from San Francisco's 19, he threw a soft liner over the defense and into the hands of tight end Visanthe Shiancoe in the end zone.

"I thought the ball was in a great spot," Childress said. "That was about as good of a spot on a throw ... he took a little something off of it to stick it behind the linebacker."

In lauding the final resting place of this pass, Childress obviously was referring to the trajectory of Jackson's throw and not Shiancoe's hands.

This was one of two passes among Jackson's 23 that traveled more than 12 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. He also tried to hit Shiancoe in the deep middle during the Vikings' first possession and missed.

The 49ers were using blitzes by the cornerbacks to stop the NFL's No. 1 running game. They also had the safeties playing deep, allowing the Vikings receivers much room to make catches short right or short left.

On the play after Shiancoe's drop, the 49ers came with another corner blitz. Jackson made a toss to his right to a wide-open Robert Ferguson, who then made a pair of 49ers miss downfield -- linebacker Derek Smith and safety Michael Lewis -- on his way to the end zone.

There was a suggestion at Jackson's midweek media session that perhaps he had spotted the corner blitz and used an audible to get Ferguson so open.

Back when Sean Salisbury was a Vikings quarterback, he might have said, "Yeah, it was me," but not Jackson, a seemingly humble young man.

"It was a call we made in the huddle," he said. "It's just recognizing and getting ball out of my hand, and Ferg doing a great job of running the route to get open."

Jackson was 10-for-16 for 115 yards and a touchdown in the first half. The Vikings were leading 27-0. This being a road game, Childress was not going to be as giddy on offense as when he was attempting to pour it on a week earlier against Detroit in the Metrodome.

Still, it was an unimpressive second half. Jackson was 6-for-9 for 48 yards. He threw for two first downs. Three other times, he threw well short of the first-down marker on third down -- the same approach that drove Purple followers nuts during the first 25 games (9-16) of the Childress tenure.

Four-game winning streak aside, the entire afternoon in San Francisco was a definite return to Chilly's infamous West Crawl Offense.

Thanks to a suffocating defensive effort against an overmatched opponent, it went down as another victory for Jackson as a starter. He's now 7-2 (.777), an area where he's superior to Tennessee's Vince Young and Denver's Jake Cutler, the more touted quarterbacks from the '06 draft.

There's no reason for the winning streak not to reach seven (last achieved in 2000), what with the reeling Bears, the impotent, depleted Redskins and the now-done Broncos remaining on the schedule.

Clearly, Jackson has his team on target for an NFC wild-card berth, although you would have to think it will require several completions on throws more difficult than ones that could have been made by Bud Grant's grandson.

Or maybe Bud himself.

Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. • preusse@startribune.com

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