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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Bradford, Vikings’ offense provide important response in victory over Giants

By Judd Zulgad

MINNEAPOLIS – The Vikings’ never-break defense had suffered a rare letdown in the fourth quarter of Monday night’s game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Running back Paul Perkins had turned a screen pass into a 67-yard gain that put the ball at the Vikings’ 4-yard line and two plays later running back Orleans Darkwa barreled in from 1-yard out to pull the Giants to within a touchdown.

As Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford would later say, “it was time for us to go out there and respond.” The offense did exactly that.

An eight-play, 76-yard drive that began at the Vikings 24 included a 16-yard pass to Kyle Rudolph and a crucial 40-yard completion to Charles Johnson that put the ball on the Giants’ 4. Jerick McKinnon provided the finishing touch with a rushing touchdown that accounted for the final points in the Vikings’ 24-10 victory.

“That was a pretty big response for us,” Bradford said. “It was probably the biggest turning point in the game.”

The Vikings joined the Denver Broncos as the only 4-0 teams in the NFL, meaning a victory over Houston next Sunday at home will send them into the bye week with a perfect record.

As has been the case so often this season, the Vikings’ defense was mostly superb. That has come to be expected under coach Mike Zimmer, whose team has beaten two MVP quarterbacks (Aaron Rodgers and Cam Newton) and a two-time Super Bowl champion (Eli Manning) in the past three weeks.

But what had to be refreshing for the Vikings on Monday night was the production they got from an offense that had yet to put together a complete effort.

An offensive line that has T.J. Clemmings starting in place of the injured Matt Kalil at left tackle and was forced to plug Jeremiah Sirles in for Andre Smith at right tackle when the latter was injured in the first quarter, put together its best game of the season.

A run game that had failed to produce 100 yards in any of the first three games, finished with 104 yards and its first two touchdowns of the season. McKinnon, who had a Vikings-best 85 yards on 18 carries, had one score and Matt Asiata had the other.

Monday might have marked the first real look at the Vikings’ offensive plan in the post Adrian Peterson era.

Bradford, acquired for first- and fourth-round draft picks from Philadelphia just before the regular-season began, appears to be getting more comfortable with each start and continues to build chemistry with his receivers.

Making his third start, Bradford attempted a season-high 36 passes, hitting on 26 of them for 262 yards with a touchdown and a 101.9 passer rating. Bradford also had a 100-plus passer rating in his first home start against Green Bay.

Bradford was not sacked after being sacked six times in his first two starts and, most importantly, he continued to avoid turnovers. The quarterback has yet to throw an interception and the offense has yet to commit a turnover.

“He was pretty poised,” Zimmer said of Bradford. “We protected him pretty well. He continues to do the things we ask him to do. … He’s done a remarkable job.”

Bradford connected on passes with nine receivers Monday, completing five apiece to Rudolph (for 55 yards and a touchdown), Stefon Diggs (for 47 yards) and Cordarrelle Patterson (for 38 yards).

That last one is not a misprint.

Patterson, who caught two passes all of last season and long ago had fallen out of favor because of his struggles to run routes correctly, had not caught as many as five passes in a game since he hauled in six for 86 yards on Oct. 26, 2014 at Tampa Bay.

Zimmer and Bradford both said the game plan was to get Patterson more involved and they did exactly that by getting him far more snaps on offense than usual.

“He keeps working hard,” Zimmer said.

Patterson said he isn’t focusing on his past failures at this point. “I don’t look at what happened back then,” he said. “God gave you your eyes in the front of our head to see where you’re going, not where you’ve been. I’m just focused on this week. We’ve got the Texans next week. That’s the main goal, to come out 5-0.”

While Patterson is looking to establish himself as a regular part of the offense, Rudolph and Bradford have established the type of chemistry that many had been hoping the big tight end and Teddy Bridgewater would find before Bridgewater suffered a season-ending knee injury just before the season.

Rudolph has caught 15 passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns in three games with Bradford throwing him the ball. Bradford said he has “all the confidence in the world” in Rudolph and that shows.

The interesting thing is Bradford has only been in this offense for a month. “My whole mentality is to take things a day at a time,” he said. “I try to learn more of the offense each time I step on the field. Obviously, being 4-0, I don’t think you can ask for a lot more.”

The post Zulgad: Bradford, Vikings’ offense provide important response in victory over Giants appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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