Sam Bradford Shuts A Lot Of People Up

He’s just a kid having fun out there
Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Since the retirement of Fran Tarkenton in 1978, there has been an uneasiness about the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings for most of my life, save an occasional season here an there. That uneasiness was a thing of the past, it was thought, when the Vikings drafted Teddy Bridgewater in 2014.

The uneasiness returned in waves after Teddy’s knee injury and subsequent trade for Sam Bradford right before the season opener last year. And all though last year, although Sam Bradford had some good games, notably in his debut against Green Bay in the US Bank Stadium opener, that uneasiness didn’t go away. Between Teddy’s rehab and an off-season full of questions, both about Bradford and the offense, there were a lot of unknowns towards both heading into last night's game.

There are 15 games to go, and a lot of football to be played, but last night Sam Bradford went a long way to wash away a lot of that uneasiness. Let’s look at some of the big knocks on Sam, and how he purified himself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka:

Checkdown Sam: This was probably his biggest knock. Detractors were quick to point out that Bradford’s high completion percentage was balanced against a yards per attempt average that was very average to subpar. Supporters would point out he had virtually no time to throw, and with a competent offensive line, that would change. Last night, with a new line that was giving him great protection, he started out with short throws downfield, and there was a bit of uneasiness towards the game. But on the Vikings third drive, Bradford started airing it out, orchestrating a three play TD drive consisting of throws of 35, 21, and 18 yards. He didn’t stop until he had 346 yards, 3 TD’s, and an average yards per attempt of 10.8, an eye popping number.

He’s not an emotional leader: Since he was the number one overall pick by the Rams in the 2010 draft, Bradford has a reputation as a guy that doesn’t show a lot of emotion on the field. Yeah, last night he was yelling, slapping helmets, and high-fiving everyone. it was the most emotion I had ever seen from Bradford, who finally looked comfortable in a Vikings uniform running the Vikings offense. I don’t know that I would go as far as saying he was exorcising a lot of demons last night, but it felt like he did go a long way in answering the quarterback question once and for all.

He’s not clutch: When most people think of a quarterback performing in the clutch, they think about game winning drives in the 4th quarter. Yet, it’s just as important being able to run an offense that can take a lead and put teams away in the fourth quarter, so a come from behind win isn’t required. Last night, Bradford and the Vikings offense did just that. Late in the 3rd quarter, the Saints had closed to 10 points, and got back into the game with a nice drive for a field goal. The Saints have Drew Brees, and a three and out followed by a Saints TD would have made a lot of people uncomfortable.

On the ensuing drive, a three and out looked entirely possible, and you could feel just how big this drive was. A punt here gives the Saints great field position, and either a TD or a field goal makes it a one score game. Facing a 3rd and 9 from their own 12 after an incompletion and a one yard run, Bradford delivered a 27 yard seed to Adam Thielen for a first down out to the 39. After five straight runs, the Vikings were facing third and 9 from the 15. A field goal still gives the Saints life here, but a touchdown pretty much ends the game, barring a remarkable reversal of fortune. Bradford finds Kyle Rudolph for the TD, the score is now 26-9, and for all intents and purposes this game is over. Clutch.

It was just the Saints: This is the excuse people throw out when there are no more excuses, ‘well it was just ______.’ If you are a good team in the NFL, or want to be a good team, you should soundly beat teams you are better than on paper. Too many times in my life I have watched an on-paper superior Vikings team play down to the level of their competition, and either squeak out a closer than it should have been win, or more often, watch them lose in agonizing fashion.

But not last night. Last night, once the Vikings got the Saints down, they kept them down and didn’t let them back in to the game, and Sam Bradford had a lot to do with that. He made clutch throws to keep drives alive, finished those drives with touchdowns and not field goals, and it never really felt to me like the Saints were in the game, or had a realistic chance to come back and win.

Look, I love Teddy. Heck, I even started The Bridgewater Undeground stories, and no one wants to see him play more than I do. But I also recognize a great performance when I see it, and Sam Bradford played like a top five NFL quarterback last night. Granted, it’s only one game, and there’s a lot of football left to play, but if this becomes the norm for Bradford and the offense, there is no more quarterback controversy in Minnesota.


Hear! Hear!

Thank you Glover

for admitting I have been right since the Vikings traded for the guy. If they don’t extend him then Slick Rick and Pirate Zim should both be fired. Bridgewater was frankly never the answer. Just a real nice guy and an average QB.

@ Brian.Olson - How do you rate Bridgewater average?

I’m not defending him, I’m just trying to figure out how you gathered enough data to determine that. Teddy has pretty much been dealing with the same terrible O-line since he came to the team. He was getting better. Hell, look at how long it took for Bradford to turn it around; years!
Too early to tell on Teddy, we can only hope that he turns out as good as Bradford seems to be turning out.
Not saying you are right or wrong, just that your conclusion seems a little premature.

That is all. LOL

Skol brother!

I was groaning about Checkdown Sam for a while in the first half

I recall on an early third down, I saw a WR wide open on a corner route way past the sticks, but Sam threw it to the checkdown man right in front of him, leading to a punt. He was 7/10 for 40 yards at one point, (just 4 yards per attempt). It wasn’t looking good. Then he started to trust his line, took his time and found the deep receivers and I was jumping for joy!

It's also worth noting he threw that first down the first time it was 3rd down.

Then they called holding and brought it back and that was when he checked down on a 3rd and 14. That was also his only check down of the day I believe. But yeah it was like he realized his line was giving him more than 2 seconds and took full advantage. Hopefully this line holds up the whole year and we see this Bradford all year.

it was really the only groanful moment

about a great performance. I think people resorted to their fears of last season. But in reality, do we want to risk a turnover there if he doesn’t see a good window? These are pretty bang-bang calls he has to make. I can’t get too bent out of shape to get a few yards and punt when the game was tight the way it was — field position at that point was important. Defense was doing the job. Protect the ball first,.

The big question mark with Bradford (other than health of course) is his willingness to take smart risks. And I thought his first game he killed it in that dept. He threw into tight windows but used his accuracy to put the ball in good spots and trust the WRs. But not every risk is a good risk. There will be checkdowns that are necessary sometimes, to protect the ball and get yards while at least giving the back a chance (however remote) without risking a strip sack or a pick

When you're 7/10 for 40

there’s plenty of groan-worthy moments, especially against such a susceptible defense. But kudos to Bradford for finishing strong once he realized he had guys running open down the field. Hopefully the OL continues to keep him clean so he doesn’t revert.

the two issues he needs to overcome

1. are justifying "good" risks — identifying good time to take shots even if coverage looks good. Big pass last night.

2. Slow starter. Always has been. Even in his best games last year he started slow. Needs to get better there or he risks facing deficits a lot.

Completely agreed

We saw hints of it in the preseason and its good to see him bring that over into the regular season as well. Now he just needs to keep it up.

As for the slow starts, we are fortunate we have a defense that’s difficult to score on, for sure.

Slow starter - I think I read that somewhere before

doff of the cap, sir

You really have a hard time giving him credit

You say finish strong like he came on in the 4th quarter. He was solid the whole game. He had one groanworthy pass after converting a third down and being pushed back and we can’t even see down field to know if he had an option. He had two or three drives before he took off in the second quarter for the rest of the game. And those first two or three drives weren’t groan worthy. They resulted in 6 points which isn’t bad. Offenses have those sort of drives no matter who their QB is. He went for the TD on one of those third downs that resulted in a FG because there was just a great play by the linebacker at the goal line. No one would say Teddy started crappy or "groan worthy" if he had two scoring drives on his first three drives. It’s worth noting the penalties that killed those drives too. A terrible holding call took back a third down conversion by Bradford and then after he had his one checkdown on third down of the whole game. Look at how Teddy started some games and 7/10 for 40 was probably some of his better days.

No, I just have a hard time giving him enough credit for YOU to be satisfied

He wasn’t solid the whole game. He was 7/10 for 40 yards at one point. That’s solid to you? Because it isn’t to me.. or anyone else. Regardless of who the QB is.

I gave him props for turning the game around after that point, what more do you want? I need to see more that one spectacular game this season before I’m ready to anoint him as the future franchise QB/HoFer. Particularly against a better defense than the Saints, who have been terrible for years. This game was a step in the right direction, but it was hardly the ’He’s arrived!’ game that ‘Bradford Believers’ want everyone to accept it as.

Took Sam a while to trust the new O line

Frankly I don’t blame him. Bradford’s previous experience with Vikings O lines was: Hike, quick look, oh shit here comes BOOM! It took him a full quarter of football to realize that he actually, really, not kidding, had more than 1.5 seconds to look down field for targets. The realization happened in the 2nd quarter. Suddenly Checkdown Sammy became Down field Sam Bradford, a talented passing surgeon dissecting the New Orleans defense. Our "no name" receivers were getting balls thrown to them that they’d be ashamed to drop – on target, in stride, leading them away from defenders.

Quick nod to the doubters: The Saints do not have a great NFL defense. However, this was still the first time the Vikings O line was able to form a recognizable passing pocket against ANY defense, so this is a huge good sign of things to come. Going forward, the line will face more talent, different looks, better stunts, stronger rushers, etc. Even so, I expect them to look considerably better than the disorganized mess we saw last year.

i have been trying to manage the excitement

by pointing out that the Saints are not a good defense. BUT — it’s imperative to point out that this is what you want to see your offense do to a bad defense. The Vikings offense shredded them — had them completely at their mercy most of the game.

And last year, there were times when some bad defenses (like Chicago) shut down the offense and it sucked.

This was very VERY encouraging even if you agree the Saints are lacking on defense. Naturally, the next step is to see if they can sustain that many drives against a better defense. And then a better defense after that.

My comments might look like "I told you so" and paint me as someone who is guaranteeing he was some misunderstood genius in a former like and JUSTWATCHHIMNOW!!! But really I just want Bradford to get credit when he earns it. I know people will have no problem dishing out the criticism. I thinkn he got a bad rap last season despite being the bright spot on a defense disemboweled by injury and illness (Harris)

What is encouraging about this team...

is that it appears it can compete in either a shootout or a defensive battle. It will (should) be competitive in every contest.

Let's wait until we are actually in a shootout, eh?

Last night wasn’t one.

won one game against a loser team,

off to the SB

remember 5-0?

You realize my reply is in the same vein as yours, yes?

exactly, I was agreeing w/you dog

pointing out Mr Bean jumping the gun a bit!!!!!
All good!

Sell: All defenses looked like All Stars against last years OL mushroom cloud

Last year was the light at the end of the tunnel—-a QB who could keep it competitive with a 100th string OL—(Thanks-Your Welcome)
This year we come out of the offensive darkness—OL (better is all we needed), OC (full year to prepare), QB (immune to the constant criticism), and RB (koudos to the GM).
Managed excitement yes!!!
After last years managed excrement—- ill take every bit of success they show and amplify it so all can hear like a gjallarhorn from Valhalla

Not every short pass is a check down.

There were a lot of short routes being run, at the beginning of the game.

They're not

But there’s definitely a difference between a short slant route and a HB just sitting a few yards past the LoS.

If we could get more slants and drags in the playcalling, I think it would help out more. Get the ball to a guy who’s moving, rather than a HB who’s sitting and waiting with his back to the defense.

those drags Diggs was running were letha;

first down! And still there were people complaining Bradford got lucky that he threw short and Diggs got hima first. I don’t get it. I really don’t.

That "Checkdown Sam" moniker...

…probably started here in St. Louis where Sam was saddled with a porous OL and a bunch of WR’s who couldn’t outrun the opposing secondary very often. The fact remains, however, that he has a cannon for an arm and is very accurate with his throws. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hauls down more POTW awards this year.

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