It was kind of shocking when Brad Childress announced early this week that Gus Frerotte was replacing Tarvaris Jackson as the Vikings' starting quarterback. The surprise wasn't that Frerotte would start ahead of Jackson--he's a better quarterback at this point, but the shocker was that Childress would admit he had made a mistake by sticking with Jackson all these years.
But today we saw why he made the decision. Adrian Peterson played, but he doesn't seem to have the same explosiveness he usually has which explains why his longest run was only 14 yards. And with a human Adrian Peterson, it's hard to imagine just how bad the Vikings' offense would be with Jackson under center. When Jackson was at quarterback, the entire Vikings offense was based off of handing the ball to Peterson. Even when Jackson was asked to throw, it was usually on roll outs that fed off of defenses' tendencies to bring a safety up to stop the run.
But this week, the Vikings weren't sunk when it became clear that this wasn't a 100 percent Peterson. With Frerotte starting, the Vikings still have a gameplan even if Peterson's not capable of carrying the ball 25 times. The Vikings actually threw the ball on seven of their first eight offensive plays, and while Frerotte wasn't spectacular, his ability to connect on mid-range passes (from 10-to-20 yards downfield) has opened up the entire Vikings playbook.
Frerotte is too prone to taking sacks and while he still has a strong arm, his accuracy on the deep ball sometimes could use a little sharpening, but it's fair to say that the presence of a real live NFL quarterback changed completely how the Panthers had to play defense. Frerotte may have seemed pretty average as he went 16-for-28 for 204 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but that's more yards than Jackson had in 11 of his 16 NFL starts.
With a loss today, the Vikings' season could have been over before it barely got started, but with Frerotte looking adequate things are looking up.