EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -During their first in-depth talk about his demotion, just last week, Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress told quarterback Tarvaris Jackson his time to play would come soon enough.
The opportunity eerily arose three days later, when Gus Frerotte's twisted lower back forced him out of the game and returned the reins to Jackson. He shined in the suddenness, completing eight of 10 passes for 105 yards, the go-ahead touchdown and a career-best 143.8 rating while rallying the Vikings to a 20-16 victory on Sunday over the winless Detroit Lions.
``He did a great job stepping in,'' running back Adrian Peterson said. ``I wasn't surprised. I see him time after time in practice making big plays and making good throws and things like that.''
Childress issued rare praise for the project he helped pick in the second round of the 2006 draft and has developed at a so-far unsatisfying rate.
``Tarvaris did a great job. A great, great job,'' the coach said.
season, a record boosted by a stout defense and Peterson's emergence, Jackson lost the job to Frerotte in September after two shaky games left the Vikings at 0-2.
Frerotte had thrown 15 interceptions and only 12 touchdowns in 10 1/2 games before the injury sent him off in serious pain on a cart late in the second quarter against the Lions, and his immobility has led to 30 sacks. But his poise, confidence and toughness have given the offense a boost, judging by Minnesota's 8-3 mark since the switch was made.
Jackson was upset by the demotion, but his admission that he put too much pressure on himself seemed to justify his backup status. Entering the game in Detroit without warning prevented him from overthinking and growing anxious.
``I just went out and played,'' Jackson said, frequently flashing a smile while he fielded questions from reporters on Monday for more than 12 minutes. ``You just feel good getting out there. It's not like I've never been out there.''
Will Jackson be out there again this week when the Vikings play at Arizona?
That is this week's Winter Park mystery.
``Not sure. We're day to day,'' Childress said, declaring Frerotte's condition ``very sore.''
But he's been sore before.
``We'll see where he's at when we get to Wednesday,'' Childress said.
As long as his body allows him to play, Frerotte is still the starter.
give us the best opportunity to win, and obviously health will be a factor in that,'' Childress said.
If the Bears (7-6) lose at home on Thursday night to the New Orleans Saints, the Vikings (8-5) will clinch the division title and their first playoff berth in four years by beating the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon. That would guarantee them a tiebreaker edge over Chicago if the two teams finish tied for first.
They've come a long way since that 18-15 loss at home to Indianapolis when the Colts rallied from a 15-0 deficit after the Vikings were forced to kick field goals every time they reached scoring range.
``It's just been a long process, thinking about the whole situation, the hard work I put in, the process since I got here,'' Jackson said, adding: ``It might have been a wakeup call. It might be how God planned it. You never know. I just try to take it for what it's worth and try to use it as motivation.''
Despite the impressive performance in a game that would have been unforgivable for Minnesota to lose, Jackson said he realizes his role and holds no heightened hopes of staying in the starting lineup.
``Gus has done a great job, leading our team this year,'' Jackson said. ``I don't expect any different.''
He's endured a gamut of emotions over the last three months, an experience he shared with Childress when he was summoned for their chat last Thursday.
``I've been playing football for a long, long time. Then when someone takes you off the field, you're kind of angry,'' Jackson said, adding: ``I can't really dwell on it. It's in the past. I have to use it to get better.''
Childress was appreciative of that attitude.
``He certainly played with confidence, and was about his business,'' the coach said. ``He was precise in what he did. You didn't see a whole bunch of inaccuracy. You didn't see extra steps. He knew exactly what he needed to do.''

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