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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Questionable call: Why didn’t Vikings pull Sam Bradford earlier?

By Judd Zulgad

The Vikings’ decision to start Sam Bradford in Monday night’s 20-17 victory at Chicago did not come as a surprise.

Not after the veteran quarterback returned to practice last week, and coach Mike Zimmer confirmed that whether Bradford could play was now a matter of whether he could tolerate the pain in his twice surgically repaired left knee.

Heck, it seemed logical given that Bradford is a better quarterback than backup Case Keenum and with standout rookie running back Dalvin Cook lost to a knee injury, the Vikings needed all the offensive help they could get.

But any thought that we would see the same Bradford who threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns in the Vikings’ opener against New Orleans, quickly went out the window once Monday’s game began.

The surprise became that Zimmer left Bradford in for nearly the entire first half at Soldier Field, when it had quickly become clear that he had no business playing in this game.

When Bradford missed on his first two pass attempts to Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen on the Vikings’ opening drive, it seemed as if something might not be right. But it was only two passes and perhaps Bradford was rusty after missing three games with a knee injury that has been reported to be a bone bruise.

On the Vikings’ second possession, Bradford threw a third-down pass to Diggs that sailed high. It looked as if he was far from comfortable landing on his front (left) leg when trying to complete the throw.

And then things got worse.

Bradford finally completed a short pass to Thielen on first down from the Vikings’ 10-yard line late in the opening quarter, but the wide receiver was thrown for a 5-yard loss. Bradford then threw an incompletion toward Thielen before the QB was sacked in the end zone for a safety on third-and-15 from his own 5.

Bradford looked lost on the play. An ESPN replay showed he held the ball for an unforgivable 5.26 seconds before being thrown to the turf by the Bears’ Leonard Floyd and giving Chicago 2 points.

It was at that point that common sense should have caused Zimmer to put Keenum in the game. Bradford looked as if he could barely move and was 1-for-5 for minus-5 yards passing at that point.

It also wasn’t a good thing that almost every time Bradford was shown on the bench, Vikings head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman was checking on him.

Nonetheless, Bradford continued to play. It certainly looked painful for Bradford and it was definitely painful to watch. He directed three more series in the second quarter, including one that began at the Bears’ 13-yard line after Everson Griffen’s strip sack of Chicago rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky gave Minnesota possession.

But Bradford was sacked on second-and-7 from the Bears’ 10, putting the ball back at the 18. Kai Forbath kicked a 26-yard field goal to give the Vikings a 3-2 lead that they would take into the half.

Thankfully, when the Vikings offense returned to the field for one final possession in the second quarter, Keenum was at quarterback. Bradford finished 5 of 11 for 36 yards and was sacked four times, in part because he had no chance to avoid pressure.

Afterward, Zimmer told reporters that Bradford had aggravated the knee injury on one of the sacks but remained hopeful about the health of his starter. Zimmer also added that Bradford did not want to come out of the game. “We wouldn’t have put him on the field if he wasn’t healthy enough to play,” Zimmer said of the decision to start Bradford.

The decision to start him is not what was in question. It was the decision to leave him in. Bradford was having issues moving around and throwing the ball, meaning that it quickly should have become obvious that Keenum would give Minnesota a better chance against a subpar Bears team.

Keenum, who played the entire second half, finished 17 of 21 for 140 yards with a touchdown and a 110.3 passer rating. A late interception by Harrison Smith put Forbath in position to kick a 26-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter to lift the Vikings.

The guess here is that Bradford won’t be back until after the Vikings’ bye week in early November, meaning Keenum will be the starter against the Packers, Ravens and Browns in the next three weeks.

Is that ideal? No. But it’s a far better option than putting an immobile and hurting Bradford on the field again.

The post Zulgad: Questionable call: Why didn’t Vikings pull Sam Bradford earlier? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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