Adrian Peterson's headache: Vikings hurting from QB's growing pains

Monday, September 17th 2007, 8:22 pm
By: News On 6

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) _ The Minnesota Vikings had to know there would be games like this when they turned their quarterback job over to Tarvaris Jackson.

And turn it over is just what Jackson did in Sunday's overtime defeat at Detroit. He threw four interceptions in the 20-17 loss, and two them led directly to Lions touchdowns. Another was ultimately costly, a tipped ball on the opening drive at Detroit's 25-yard line.

The final mistake didn't hurt, but it was a dangerous decision _ an off-balance pass down field at the end of a rollout near the sideline on third down that was picked off at the Lions 35.

Giveaways like these are exactly what coach Brad Childress has routinely stressed to his team to avoid in the attempt to correct last season's offensive problems. After leading the league last year with 123 penalties, Childress wanted to drastically cut those down, too _ but the Vikings were whistled for 12 infractions for 96 yards of punishment.

That's why the coach, in analyzing the game on Monday, called the performance a ``debacle.'' Backup Brooks Bollinger fumbled a snap at midfield in the extra period that set up the winning field goal, meaning 17 of Detroit's 20 points came from turnovers. The defense did plenty, forcing five turnovers, collecting four sacks and scoring another touchdown.

But there were blunders on that side of the ball as well, like Spencer Johnson's roughing-the-passer penalty _ as curious a call as it might have been _ on third-and-22 at the Minnesota 43 early in the third quarter. The Lions scored their second touchdown shortly after the flag gave them a first down.

``As a teacher, you just continue to point it out,'' Childress said. ``They know what it means, and I'd like to get it back to where it was in that game one.''

Though the venue changed from to home to road and the opponent appeared more formidable, the Vikings clearly regressed from a promising 24-3 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in the opener. The Detroit game looked a lot like last season, with the offense hurting itself with penalties and giving the ball away, the defense taking it back and dominating against the run but surrendering chunks of yards against spread-out, multiple-receiver formations.

Jackson obviously needs to be a lot better for Minnesota to succeed, but the Vikings maintained their confidence in the 24-year-old, who has started only four games in his career.

``He's got a good head on his shoulders,'' center Matt Birk said. ``Everybody is going to have games like that. It certainly just wasn't his fault. We've obviously got to protect him a little bit better, so guys can get open better. It's a whole offensive effort.''

Left tackle Bryant McKinnie said he didn't believe Jackson's spirit was down.

``I basically think he's just going to take it as a learning experience _ like we will, for some of the mistakes we made in the game _ and grow and move on from it,'' McKinnie said. ``You know everything can't be just perfect the whole year long. There are some things that you have to grow through, and you bounce back and you learn from them.''

Childress said that Jackson is still the starter, if he's healthy. Jackson strained his groin earlier in the game and felt a tug in the muscle on the first play of overtime, when Bollinger was sent in. Jackson was unavailable for comment on Monday, but Childress said he was ``beat up pretty bad.''

The coach wasn't ready to speculate on whether Bollinger or Holcomb would replace Jackson if he's deemed unable to play. But Childress was willing to take on a question about whether he misjudged Jackson's readiness for the opportunity. His answer was no.

``I feel like he's more than ready. It's just a matter of him taking care of the football. I see him make a lot of good plays out there, and I see him seeing a lot of things and getting us into the right plays,'' Childress said.