StaTuesday: Vikings’ Bradford flips the script in Week 1
Sam Bradford looked good in primetime.
Not “game manager” good or “bad defense” good, but really good.
Bradford had asterisk after asterisk attached to his first season with the Minnesota Vikings, in which the famously combustible quarterback set an NFL record for completion percentage.
He completed 71.56 percent of his passes in 2016, but was hitting most of his receivers six yards off the line.
He had the league’s sixth-best passer rating, but ranked 21st in yards per attempt.
The list goes on.
But then he passed for 346 yards and three touchdowns Monday night against the supposedly improved New Orleans Saints, powering the Vikings to a 29-19 win and throwing that whole narrative out of whack.
It was the one of the best games of his career by virtually any measure.
|Sept. 11, 2017||New Orleans||143.0||27||32||346||3|
|Oct. 13, 2013||Houston||134.6||12||16||117||3|
|Oct. 9, 2016||Houston||123.1||22||30||271||2|
|Oct. 4, 2015||Washington||122.6||15||28||270||3|
|Sept. 18, 2016||Green Bay||121.2||22||31||286||2|
Bradford had the second-best passer rating of Week 1, joining Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs and Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams in the top three.
It was a weird week.
|Alex Smith||Kansas City||148.6|
|Jared Goff||L.A. Rams||117.9|
Of the players to go off in Week 1, Bradford’s performance is among the most encouraging.
The Saints’ defense has been historically bad in recent years, but the preseason buzz was all positive.
New Orleans has spent significant draft capital on defense over the last few years (eight of its last 12 picks in the first or second round have been spent on defenders), while linebackers Manti Te’o and A.J. Klein came over in free agency.
None of that seemed to matter to Bradford and co.
The offensive line held up, giving Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs time to get down field, where Bradford found them, completing an eye-popping 84.4 percent of his passes with an average output of 10.8 yards per attempt.
He unloaded this geometrically nonsensical throw to Jarius Wright, threading the smallest of needles to set up a Diggs touchdown.
It was one of the most accurate performances in Vikings history.
|Sam Bradford||9/11/17||New Orleans||84.4||27||32|
Bradford completed eight passes of at least 20 yards, outgunning the rest of the NFL in Week 1.
|Player||Team||Opp.||20+ yards||40+ yards||Longest|
|Sam Bradford||Minnesota||New Orleans||8||1||44|
|Jared Goff||L.A. Rams||Indianapolis||7||0||39|
|Tom Brady||New England||Kansas City||5||1||54|
|Aaron Rodgers||Green Bay||Seattle||5||0||32|
He leaned on Diggs throughout the night, hitting the third-yard receiver seven times for 93 yards and two touchdowns.
It was the first time since Randy Moss and Daunte Culpepper hooked up for a pair of scores in 2004 that a Vikings receiver has had multiple touchdowns in a season opener.
|Ahmad Rashad||9/2/79||San Francisco||152||4|
|Cris Carter||9/6/98||Tampa Bay||31||2|
|Stefon Diggs||9/11/17||New Orleans||93||2|
|Hassan Jones||9/6/92||Green Bay||57||2|
|Randy Moss||9/6/98||Tampa Bay||95||2|
|Herschel Walker||9/9/90||Kansas City||70||2|
|Rickey Young||9/3/78||New Orleans||134||2|
Was it the shoes?
Stefon Diggs brought the 🔥🔥🔥 to honor Randy Moss.
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) September 12, 2017