MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Steven Jackson and the St. Louis Rams played
like contenders with a promising performance. The Minnesota Vikings
still have plenty of work remaining on their reconstruction
Jackson had a career-high four touchdowns and 142 yards rushing,
helping the Rams finish the year with three straight wins in a
41-21 victory over the Vikings on Sunday.
"Definitely a great way to end the season. We caught stride a
little bit too late, but it's something to definitely build off
of," said Jackson, who entered the final week 75 yards behind
Chargers star LaDainian Tomlinson for the league lead in yards from
Minnesota (6-10) and St. Louis (8-8) each qualified for the
postseason in 2004 as 8-8 wild-card teams, but their mediocrity was
not rewarded this year -- even in the diluted NFC. Problems scoring
points and moving the ball marked a season of obvious
disappointment for the Vikings, their fans and first-year coach
Brad Childress, whose conservative approach to the offense drew
increasing criticism throughout the fall.
"It's like remodeling a house when you're in it," Childress
said. "It's not comfortable, and the neighbors don't like looking
at it with the family room knocked off. ... It's a little bit
painful sometimes, a little bit uncomfortable sometimes."
With his team leading 34-7 early in the fourth quarter, Jackson
raced up the left sideline for a 59-yard score. That prevented
Minnesota from establishing a post-merger (since 1970) NFL record
for fewest yards rushing allowed in a season, missing by 15 the
mark of 970 yards set by the Ravens in 2000.
Though the Rams were eliminated from the playoff chase at their
hotel Saturday night when the Giants beat the Redskins, the
challenge of facing the league's best rushing defense gave them
incentive -- and they were confident they could succeed.
"I definitely thought so. My offensive line thought so,"
The Vikings were mathematically dropped from contention last
week in a 9-7 loss to the Packers when they managed only three
first downs, leaving rookie quarterback Tarvaris Jackson's first
home start as the only real intrigue for the fans.
Minnesota's sellout streak was officially extended to 95 games,
but there were plenty of empty seats on a gloomy afternoon of rain
and snow. At one point in the first half, the T-shirt gun used by
stadium workers to shoot out souvenirs was louder than the crowd,
and many customers had exited by the end of the third quarter.
They mostly came to see Jackson -- Tarvaris, that is -- give them
some hope for next year, and the rookie showed mixed results. He
was intercepted on his second pass by Ron Bartell, who returned it
38 yards for a touchdown to open the romp.
Bartell picked Jackson off in the second quarter, too, but the
kid from Division I-AA Alabama State went 20-for-34 and finished
with 213 yards and one touchdown passing plus another rushing
"There's a lot of things I have to get better at," he said.
"It's a learning experience."
Though Childress declined to give Jackson the starting job for
2007, the coach indicated he's satisfied with what he's got at the
position between the second-round draft pick and backup Brooks
"I'm OK with that right now," Childress said.
Brad Johnson, who started 14 games but was benched three times
this season, probably will not be back. He received a warm welcome
and completed a third-quarter pass when Jackson left briefly for
medical attention following a sack. Johnson, ironically, was booed
repeatedly just two weeks ago by fans who were frustrated with the
offense and eager for Jackson to play.
"We'll have a great discussion this week, I'm sure," Childress
said. "I appreciate his professionalism and his being right there
for the young guy.
First-year St. Louis coach Scott Linehan returned to the
Metrodome, after serving as the offensive coordinator under Mike
Tice from 2002-04. It was an up, then down, then up season, but
Linehan was pleased with the late momentum.
"Our guys never stopped believing, and that's the thing I'm
most proud of," Linehan said.
Pro Bowl-bound Steven Jackson was the show, finishing his third
year in the league with an impressive display of power and speed.
He finished with 1,528 yards rushing and led all NFL running backs
with 806 yards receiving.
"A very dangerous offense to look for next year," Jackson
Chester Taylor set a Vikings record with 304 carries this
year and also became only the fourth Vikings back to reach 1,200
yards in a season. Taylor had 29 yards on 13 attempts, with one
touchdown. ... Torry Holt had nine catches for 90 yards for the