Tough crowd: Vikes' Johnson booed out of Metrodome
MINNEAPOLIS -- Brad Johnson's honeymoon in Minnesota is over.
Once the darling of Vikings fans, Johnson was booed through the second and third quarter and serenaded with chants of "We Want Jackson! We Want Jackson!" as the offense continued to struggle in a 26-13 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday.
After yet another three-and-out late in the third quarter, coach Brad Childress yanked the proud veteran from the lineup and inserted rookie backup Tarvaris Jackson to thunderous cheers and a standing ovation.
It was a difficult exit for his teammates to watch in what could have been the last time the 38-year-old Johnson took the field in purple.
"You hear that as a player, it's not right," receiver Travis Taylor said of the boos. "When Tarvaris came into the game they started cheering, and maybe rightfully so on their end of the stick. But at the same time, as players and fellow teammates, you don't want to see someone have to go through that."
It was far from Johnson's worst game this season. He was 10 of 17 for 96 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 94.2 that was nearly 10 times better than his 10.3 stinker against the Bears two weeks ago.
But with Johnson unable to get the Vikings going and the Jets ahead 19 points in the third quarter, the crowd had seen enough from the player hailed as a savior last season for leading the team to a 7-2 finish.
"There was certainly enough blame to go around today," center Matt Birk said. "It was a little disappointing. I feel for Brad because I have the utmost respect for him and what he's accomplished."
Birk might be on to something there. Vikings receivers rarely gained separation from defensive backs on Sunday and Johnson was under pressure from the blitz-happy Jets all afternoon.
He was sacked three times and also seemed a bit handcuffed by Childress's playcalling.
Johnson's last play of the game came on third-and-2 from the Minnesota 30. The Vikings broke the huddle with only one receiver split wide and tight end Jermaine Wiggins was the only player more than 4 yards beyond the line of scrimmage after the snap.
Johnson's heave to Wiggins fell harmlessly incomplete, a head-scratching call for an offense that has had trouble moving the ball consistently all season.
"It's not like he was playing bad," Taylor said. "You have to look at some of the plays that were happening on the field. The quarterback always gets the most blame, unfortunately."
Johnson declined comment as he left the locker room after the game, and Childress inserted Jackson with 25 seconds left in the third quarter.
"I thought we needed a spark," Childress said. "I didn't think we played considerably well around Brad today, whether it was running the football or protecting him. Somebody had to make plays around the guy."
The fans were borderline tasteless in their revelry, actually cheering loudly when Jackson eluded a sack and threw the ball away in a blatant shot at Johnson's lack of mobility.
Jackson played fairly well in the first extensive action of his career. He was 14 of 23 for 177 yards and one touchdown, but threw a costly interception in the end zone as he tried to rally the Vikings.
Childress did not say who will start on Thursday night at Green Bay.
"We'll just see who gives us the best chance to win," he said.
Jackson was conflicted after the game, saying he enjoyed the chance to play but also felt for Johnson, who has been a trusted mentor to Jackson in his first season.
"It's very hard. I don't want to see that happen," Jackson said of the boos. "Sometimes fans don't understand there's more to being a quarterback than just throwing touchdowns. He's a leader of the team and he's still going to lead the team. It's hard for me to just hear the fans do him like that."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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