Pass-deficient Vikings still struggling

>EDEN PRAIRIE (AP) – The Minnesota Vikings have been criticized this season for their cautious use of standout running back Adrian Peterson.

Perhaps there’s another way to keep the rookie on the field for every snap: Play him at quarterback.

One week after Peterson’s franchise-record explosion suggested hope for the Vikings (2-4) and their maddeningly ineffective offense, Tarvaris Jackson followed with a passing performance that couldn’t have been much worse in a 24-14 defeat in Dallas on Sunday.

He completed only six – SIX! – of his 19 throws for 72 yards and, of course, no scores. Only two passes were caught by wide receivers. Though he avoided a turnover for the second straight game, Jackson also was sacked three times.

“I thought he was into the rhythm of the game and was doing a decent job with the checks he was making on the line of scrimmage. We would’ve liked to have some of those throws hit their target,” said coach Brad Childress, who denied considering a substitution with second-stringer Kelly Holcomb. He was, however, more disappointed with Jackson than after any of his five previous career starts.

Jackson’s 9-for-23 output for 136 yards in Minnesota’s win at Chicago on Oct. 14 was masked a bit by his perfectly thrown 60-yard touchdown pass to Troy Williamson and the 224 yards and three scores Peterson put on the bewildered Bears that day.

But Jackson, in his second year out of Alabama State, has completed only 15 passes over the past two games – the type of number put up by a high school team running a wing-T offense. Tony Romo had 28 passes caught in the first half alone for the Cowboys.

Jackson’s completion percentage has fallen to a league-low 45.9, and his passer rating of 48.7 is also by far the NFL’s worst among those who qualify.

“You knew coming into this year – young quarterback, first year starting – there was going to be some growing pains,” cornerback Antoine Winfield said. “But I think he’s handled it well. There’s a lot of pressure on him. He’s not really performing like he wants to, but we have to stick with him and stick by him.”

Childress acknowledged that the Vikings must continue to weigh the negatives and positives of using such a raw quarterback with a veteran team while trying to develop him at the same time.

“You want to win football games. Our team needs to have confidence in the guy that is playing underneath the center,” the coach said. “He needs to get those looks, but by the same token you don’t want to sacrifice those wins.”

Childress might not have to make the choice this week. Jackson broke the index finger on his throwing hand during the Dallas game, and his status is uncertain for Sunday’s matchup with Philadelphia.

With a splint on the finger and a steely gaze, Jackson spoke of maintaining his confidence.

“If you lose confidence off one football game, it’s not a job for you. It’s my job to try to keep everybody else confident. I’m pretty sure they will,” he said.

The four opponents the Vikings have lost to are a combined 19-7, and they have six of their last 10 games at home with only a few remaining foes like San Diego and Green Bay that jump out as formidable.

But they’ve become the ultimate teaser team – good enough to stay competitive most Sundays, yet possessing that fatal flaw that keeps them from getting over the top in Sisyphus-like fashion. They’ve been dominant when defending the run, stable on special teams and dangerous when Peterson touches the ball, but too often unable to complete a third-down pass and keep the drive alive.

Childress has constantly drilled into Jackson the importance of protecting the ball and avoiding interceptions, but perhaps that overcaution has had an adverse effect on his accuracy.