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Bleacher Report – Vikings

When Vikings needed a big play from Bradford, it wasn’t there

By Matthew Coller

Sam Bradford completed nearly every pass he threw on Thanksgiving Day. The passes that he didn’t try cost the Minnesota Vikings a win.

Bradford went 31-for-37 against the Detroit Lions, which under most circumstances would be considered terrific. But if you’re not willing to take a risk, you settle for ordinary, and that’s exactly what the Vikings offense was in their 16-13 loss – an L that makes their road to the playoffs a long shot at best.

With a laser arm and A+ accuracy, Bradford has the tools to fire the ball into traffic or launch one deep or put the ball where only his man can get it in the back of the end zone. His team needed those skills to be maximized by some never-tell-me-the-odds moxy. A hint of Favre maybe or a dash of Elway.

Think, if just one time on a third down Bradford had gone for broke, there’s a chance it would have been enough to keep a drive alive. Instead, he dumped it down the running backs or threw short of the sticks. Over and over.

In fact, here’s the list:

Early in the second quarter, a 3rd-and-8 went for six yards on a dump off to Matt Asiata. With 4:30 left in the second, a 3rd-and-9 resulted in a seven-yard pass to Adam Thielen.

Late in the second, Bradford tossed a five-yard pass on 3rd-and-14.

Two minutes into the third quarter, 3rd-and-9 turned into 4th-and-7 after a two-yard checkdown to Jerick McKinnon.

Bradford dumped off to Asiata at 3rd-and-5 at the Detroit 15 and gained three yards.

On 3rd-and-goal from the Detroit 16, the Vikings gained six yards through the air.

With his team staring down a win – 5:57 to play and the lead – Minnesota’s quarterback flipped a two-yard pass on 3rd-and-3.

And even the interception that ended the game, a throw toward Thielen, was probably going to be short of the sticks on third down.

Bradford finished the game with a measly 6.05 yards per attempt. To give you a little context on that, L.A. Rams quarterback Case Keenum – maybe the NFL’s worst this year – posted 6.9 yards per attempt before getting benched. Matt Cassel averaged 6.3 yards per attempt during his disasterous stint with Dallas last year.

This has been Bradford’s modus operandi for his entire career. Among active quarterbacks, he ranks 29th – tied with Derek Anderson – in terms of yards per attempt.

Some of that is circumstances, but not all. Bradford didn’t so much as look for a big throw with the season on the line in the red zone or final drive.

The juxtaposition with Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford – also a formerNo. 1 overall pick – was enough to bring a tear to Vikings fans’ eyes. In their first matchup, he found Andre Roberts for a completion to set up a game-tying field goal with time running out. And on Thursday, he scampered for a first down on third-and-long – a play that led to a field goal to knot the game at 13 a piece.

Of course, Stafford is working with a full deck, whereas Bradford is on his backup running back, third-string right tackle, second-string left tackle and without his No. 1 wide receiver Stefon Diggs.

Injuries have ruined this season for the Vikings, but that doesn’t change the fact that Bradford had a chance to lead a game-winning drive against Washington and Detroit and came up with interceptions on both occasions.

The Vikings will argue that Bradford was conservative because he had no time to throw – especially when Willie Beavers took over for Jeremiah Sirles. There is a lot of truth to that. In fact, it’s a testament to interim offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur that Minnesota’s quarterback posted ratings over 98 in the first three games after Norv Turner resigned. The gameplan is the right one. But the West Coast offense isn’t designed to ONLY throw underneath. I can promise you the Bill Walsh handbook does not say that throwing a ball up for grabs is against the law.

But that’s how it seemed for Bradford on Thursday.

What the Vikings have in their could-be franchise quarterback is a spectacularly talented player, but not one who is going to throw the team on his back and win week after week as Tom Brady and Cam Newton both did with abysmal offensive lines and receiver injuries last year. In order to win with Bradford they will need a healthy line, a running game and playmaking receivers.

Maybe next year all those things will be in place. But against Detroit – in basically a must-win game – those things weren’t there and Bradford was too risk averse to make one big-time play to his team over the hump.

The post When Vikings needed a big play from Bradford, it wasn’t there appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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