EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — So, that’s what pass protection looks like? Sorry, it’s been a while since the folks in Minnesota have seen anything like they witnessed in Monday night’s 29-19 season-opening win for the Vikings over the Saints at U.S. Bank Stadium.
With the cleanest pocket he’s had – by far – in his 16 starts as a Viking, Sam Bradford outplayed Drew Brees in prime time, completing 27 of 32 passes for 346 yards, three touchdowns, no turnovers and a career-high 143.0 passer rating.
“You know, when you’re hitting on all eight cylinders as an offense, I wouldn’t say it’s easy to play quarterback, but it’s easier,” head coach Mike Zimmer said Tuesday, a day after the Vikings improved to 3-1 in season-opening games under Zimmer. “I think (offensive coordinator) Pat (Shurmur) called a good game. I think the offensive line played well. Guys made catches in the passing game, and we got the running game going.”
Yes, Bradford and his receivers played well. So did rookie running back Dalvin Cook, who set a team rookie rushing record for a season opener (127 yards). But anyone who has followed this team in recent years knows the real credit goes to left tackle Riley Reiff, left guard Nick Easton, rookie center Pat Elflein, right guard Joe Berger and right tackle Mike Remmers.
“They played fast, they played confident,” Bradford said. “I thought our tempo was great. We were getting to the line early. I think we put pressure on them.”
It was fitting on the night Randy Moss entered the team’s Ring of Honor, the Vikings’ offense finally threw the ball downfield a bit.
A year ago, Bradford ranked 25th in the league in passes of at least 25 yards downfield. He also ranked No. 1 in completion percentage (57.4) on those throws, but just didn’t have time to throw many of them.
That changed Monday night behind a line that has three new starters and nobody who started more than five games at their current position a year ago.
“I hope Sam has games like this for 16 weeks,” Zimmer said. “You know, I keep telling everybody that Sam is as accurate as there is.”
And for one night at least, he had the time to show it off.
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