"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 scrimmage.
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.
"I definitely thought so. My offensive line thought so," Jackson said.
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 score.
"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 Bollinger.
"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.
"Our guys never stopped believing, and that's the thing I'm most proud of," Linehan said.
"A very dangerous offense to look for next year," Jackson said.