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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: It’s a half day: Bradford, Vikings offense take a while to get in groove

By Judd Zulgad

As brilliant as the Vikings defense has been this season, the putrid performance by Minnesota’s offense in the opening half Sunday in Carolina appeared as if it would doom Mike Zimmer’s team to its first loss of the season.

The Vikings only trailed by two points at halftime – a safety and punt return for a touchdown by Marcus Sherels accounted for Minnesota’s points – but the offense looked incapable of moving the ball and few could have predicted the Vikings would depart with a 22-10 victory.

Sam Bradford, coming off the best start of his career in his Vikings debut a week earlier, completed only four of 11 passes for 26 yards and was sacked twice. Running backs Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata, playing in place of the injured Adrian Peterson, combined for 27 yards rushing on seven carries, 24 of those coming from McKinnon.

“I think in the first half we just never really found a rhythm,” Bradford said. “Obviously when you’re not converting third downs (the Vikings were 1-for-6 in the first half), it’s hard to get in a rhythm. I’ve got to do a better job on third down of extending drives, keeping us going, trying to get us into a rhythm early.”

While the Fox announcing team of Chris Myers and Ronde Barber seemed intent on making Bradford’s lack of production the story line, the real issue was that the offensive line continued to look awful.

Bradford rarely had enough time to find open receivers and it appeared things would only get worse when high-priced free-agent acquisition Alex Boone had to leave the game in the second quarter because of what was announced as a hip injury. He was replaced by Jeremiah Sirles, who is listed as the backup left tackle and had not played in a game for the Vikings since being acquired from San Diego a year ago.

That meant the offensive line consisted of T.J. Clemmings playing in place of the injured Matt Kalil at left tackle; Sirles subbing for Boone at right guard; Joe Berger at center; Brandon Fusco at right guard; and Andre Smith at right tackle.

Through the first 10 quarters, the line play had been (to put it kindly) substandard, and Berger had been the only one of the five who had been somewhat reliable. Now, the left side had a completely new look.

The Vikings began the opening drive of the third quarter at their own 21-yard line. Bradford’s first pass went for a 10-yard completion to Stefon Diggs. Nine plays and 69 yards later, Bradford completed a beautiful 15-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Rudolph to give the Vikings a 16-10 lead they would not relinquish.

Bradford completed all five of his passes on that drive for 48 yards en route to going 14 of 17 for 145 yards with a touchdown and no sacks in the second half.

The superb performance by the Vikings defense was the talk of the game, but the resiliency of the offense also deserved acknowledgement. This was the type of game the Vikings have played on the road for years and rarely won.

Yet, they beat the Panthers going away and they did it in part because an offense that couldn’t shoot straight for 30 minutes managed to get its act together during halftime.

One reason the Leslie Frazier and Christian Ponder era became maddening was because the typical postgame response after losses was that the mistakes were “easily correctable.” The obvious thought was that if things could be easily corrected why didn’t you correct them during the game?

That isn’t a problem with Zimmer and his coaching staff on both sides of the ball. Bradford, who finished 18 of 28 for 171 yards with the touchdown pass, said there were “definitely adjustments to be made at halftime.”

For instance, after targeting Kyle Rudolph only twice in the opening half, the tight end had eight passes directed his way in the final two quarters. Rudolph finished with seven receptions for 70 yards after catching only one pass for 4 yards in the first half.

“You look at what we came out and did in the second half,” Bradford said. “We got to some of our quicker stuff, we got to empty (in the backfield) a few times, we tried to spread them out. As much zone coverage as they were playing, we felt like there was some air in there if we could get to space and kind of spread them out. I think that’s kind of what we did.”

While Bradford’s stats in his second start with the Vikings weren’t as impressive as they were in the victory over the Packers, the fact he improved to 2-0 against a Carolina team that had won 14 consecutive home games earned him points.

“He continues to do good,” Zimmer said of Bradford. “I think we probably need to put the (he’s) learning the offense away. I think he’s good to go with all that stuff. I thought he made some really good throws. Rudolph made some really good catches.”

And, in the end, the fact that this production only came in the final 30 minutes proved to be good enough to help keep the Vikings perfect on the season.

The post Zulgad: It’s a half day: Bradford, Vikings offense take a while to get in groove appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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