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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Sam Bradford robbed of defining moment as a Viking

By Matthew Coller

MINNEAPOLIS — Sure, the Minnesota Vikings’ offense wasn’t perfect, but Sam Bradford deserved to walk out of US Bank Stadium on Sundayfeeling like he had found himself as the team’s quarterback and leader.

Bradford should have trotted out into the abnormally-warm November sun and thought about doing the thing all quarterback’s live to do: Lead a game-winning drive.

He should have had his 3…2…1…swish.

Instead Bradford got a big fat doink.

With 4:14 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Vikings trailed 13-9 to the Lions. They started the drive at their own 21 and Bradford went to work. While the veteran quarterback had mostly stuck with short passes throughout the day, he got whacked on downfield completion to Adam Thielen. Two completions to Thielen moved the ball from the Minnesota 24 to the Detroit 30 in an eyeblink.

It was no easy road from the Detroit 30 to the end zone, but Bradford didn’t panic. He flipped a flawless pass to Cordarrelle Patterson in the end zone but the receiver couldn’t bring it in, then followed that up with a 4th-and-4 throw to Stefon Diggs underneath for a first down at the Detroit 3-yard line. Rhett Ellison got to walk the ball in for the score, but that was Bradford’s drive – the type of drive you trade a first-round pick to get.

That should have been it. Swish.

There was only 23 seconds on the clock for Matt Stafford and the Lions, who spent most of the day on offense looking like they were climbing a slippery hill with grocery bags on their feet. The only successful drive by Detroit took 17 plays and more than nine minutes in the second quarter.

But Stafford decided it was his day to walk out of the stadium feeling like the season has turned around. After an 8-yard pass to Golden Tate, he hit Andre Roberts for a 27-yard pass down the middle of the field, then Detroit’s freak show kicker Matt Prater drilled a 58-yard kick to tie the game.

The Vikings’ defense has rarely let them down this year, but in overtime they failed to stop Detroit on a third down, then proceeded to miss a number of tackles, one of which came on the game-winning play by Tate – who jump-helicoptered his way into the end zone to put the exclamation point on the doink!

Of course, that wasn’t the only time Bradford was let down. He marched the Vikings down the field for a touchdown that would have tied the game in the third quarter, only to have that snatched away from him by his own kicker. Doink! Off the upright for the third extra point miss of the season for Blair Walsh. The Vikings’ kicker tacked a blocked 46-yard field goal for good measure. Make either one of those and your quarterback is a hero.

Bradford’s final drive wasn’t his only shot at landing on this week’s edition of NFL Gamechangers. Early in the fourth, the former Ram and Eagles QB hit five straight passes, including a 32-yard dump off to Ronnie Hillman, to set his team up to take the lead.

Then the Vikings offensive line, who had mostly stood up to Detroit’s defense (with the help of lots of quick releases), reminded us that they are still indeed the Vikings offensive line. They gained no traction on 3rd-and-2, then again on 4th-and-1 at the Detroit 5-yard line.

“We shot ourselves in the foot,” tackle Jake Long said repeatedly about the play.

“There’s no excuse,” guard Brandon Fusco said. “If we can’t get a couple inches, it sucks. I can’t put my finger on what happened, I’ll have to get back and see what happened, but there’s no excuse for that.”

There was no excuse either for allowing a 1st-and-10 on Detroit’s 18 in the second quarter to turn into a 4th-and-32, but two penalties by linemen and a sack of Bradford equated to the offensive equivalent the Vine where the little kid plows over his friend with a Fisher-Price jeep then backs over him.

The other guy who had his moment stripped away like Gary Payton on 1990s point guards was Pat Shurmur. Just days after being named the interim offensive coordinator, he made the changes that were desperately needed and for the most part his moves worked.

Bradford finished 31-for-40 with 273 yards and a touchdown as the Vikings flashed shades of the Bill Walsh days, succeeding with a high volume of dump-offs, screen passes and hitch routes underneath the Detroit Lions’ zones.

The team’s weapons were finally being used correctly after two weeks of baffling slow-developing routes and seven-step drops. Stefon Diggs grabbed 13 catches on 14 targets and Cordarrelle Patterson nabbed six receptions on eight throws his way. The running backs got into the quick-pass action too with a 32-yard play going to Ronnie Hillman out of the backfield and Matt Asiata adding 14 yards through the air.

“I thought they had a good rhythm today,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “I thought we had a good mixture of different things that we did as far as protections, quicks, movement passes in the pocket.”

It was a big change from watching Bradford get sacked 11 times in the last two weeks.

In fact, it was the only reason for the Vikings not to feel devastated after the 22-16 overtime loss. The offense was not perfect, but it finished with 337 yards and zero turnovers. It looked much more like the game against the New York Giants or Houston Texans than it did against the Eagles or Bears.

And the quarterback was much more comfortable and there when the Vikings needed him to be. What more can you ask for? Other than an extra point…

The post Sam Bradford robbed of defining moment as a Viking appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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