Quotulatiousness

November 21, 2017

Keenum or Bridgewater?

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

If there’s anything that sportscasters love, its a quarterback controversy, so Minnesota’s fascinating quarterback situation is providing lots of hot takes, but sturdily resists becoming an actual controversy on the team. The Vikings started the season with Sam Bradford at QB1, Case Keenum as his backup at QB2, and Kyle Sloter, a hot-shot youngster snapped up after a great preseason performance for Denver, as the developmental QB3. Teddy Bridgewater was still on the PUP list and nobody knew when or even if he’d be medically cleared to come back to the team, and if he did return, there was no assurance that he’d be able to resume his career right where he left off before the 2016 season.

Life comes at you fast, especially in football, as Sam Bradford appeared in the weekly injury report after his excellent opening game against the New Orleans Saints, and did not get back onto the field for several weeks. Keenum stepped up and did his best to hold things together until Bradford’s knee could heal. Bradford was back on the field for game 5 against the Chicago Bears, but it quickly became clear that he didn’t belong on the field, if only for his own safety. Keenum came on in relief and Bradford eventually was put on the injured reserve list.

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November 8, 2017

Vikings activate Teddy Bridgewater, move Sam Bradford to injured reserve

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:03

One quarterback in, one out. That’s been the story for Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford over the last season. Bridgewater suffered a terrible injury just before the start of the 2016 season, and the team moved him to injured reserve for the year. Bradford was acquired in a trade with Philadelphia, and was starting for the Vikings by week 2 of the season. This season, Bridgewater started the season on the PUP list, while Bradford had a career game to open the season against the New Orleans Saints. Bradford suffered what appeared to be a mild knee injury in the game, so Case Keenum got the start the following week. Bradford didn’t see the field again until the game against the Chicago Bears, where it became quickly apparent that his knee hadn’t fully recovered and he was mercifully benched for the second half, allowing Keenum to get the Vikings back into position to win the game and has been the starter since then.

Bridgewater was eligible to practice with the team after the sixth game of the season, and the team had a three week window to decide whether to put him back on the 53-man roster, or shut him down for the remainder of the year by moving him back onto injured reserve. Today was the final day for the Vikings to make that decision. In the meantime, Sam Bradford got arthroscopic surgery on his ailing knee yesterday and was looking at a minimum six-week recovery time, so it makes sense for the team to put him on the injured reserve list, where he could be brought back onto the roster if the Vikings make the playoffs (teams can bring up to two players back from IR after a minimum of eight weeks).

Teddy Bridgewater, according to all the media reports, has been looking good in practice and his team-mates have been quite enthusiastic to get him back, but he hasn’t played any football since August 2016 and it’s probably unreasonable to expect him to pick up where he left off at that point without at least a few weeks of re-familiarization and actual game reps. If he has no set-backs and looks comfortable on the field, he could take over for Keenum in a few weeks, or it might take longer and Keenum will be the starter for much of the second half of the season. Nobody knows until Bridgewater gets onto the field.

Teddy Bridgewater at Vikings training camp, 2014.
Photo by Matthew Deery via Wikipedia.

October 10, 2017

Vikings hang on to beat Bears 20-17

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:11

Perhaps fortunately for my blood pressure, the telecast of this game was pre-empted in my area by an NHL game between Toronto and the Chicago Blackhawks, which went into overtime, so I didn’t see more than the last few minutes of the first half. Vikings starting quarterback Sam Bradford had been ineffective through most of that time, and Vikings Twitter was ablaze with demands to sit Bradford and get Case Keenum out on the field. Despite having taken most of the first-team snaps in practice last week, Bradford was clearly not healthy enough to play, and it’s disturbing that the team allowed him to make the start. By the time he left the field, he’d thrown 11 times with only five receptions for 36 yards, and he’d been sacked four times, including one for a safety.

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September 21, 2017

The Vikings’ “quarterback curse”

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the Star Tribune Jim Souhan recounts the long, sad saga of Minnesota’s quest for a franchise quarterback after Fran Tarkenton retired:

Vikings fans like to claim they are cursed by big-game losses, but losing in excruciating fashion isn’t a curse, it’s the nature of sport for all but a lucky few franchises.

If they want to claim a curse, they should cite their quarterback history, which features as many hospital gowns as game jerseys.

Sam Bradford’s knee isn’t just sore. It’s the aching juncture of an existential threat to this year’s team and the franchise’s near future.

Since Fran Tarkenton retired, the Vikings have been scrambling like Sir Francis to fill the position.

Some franchises can brag about multiple greats. Joe Montana and Steve Young. Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger.

The Vikings counter with Spergon Wynn and Christian Ponder.

[…]

The Vikings have won one playoff game in the past 13 seasons. And that came with a renegade Packer making a cameo.

The Vikings haven’t won a playoff game with a quarterback they drafted since Daunte Culpepper beat the Packers in the 2004 playoffs.

The past two quarterbacks drafted by the Vikings to play in a Super Bowl: Brad Johnson with the Buccaneers, and Rich Gannon with the Raiders.

Other than Culpepper, the Vikings haven’t won a playoff game with a quarterback they drafted since Wade Wilson beat the Saints in the 1987 playoffs.

And if greatness and Super Bowl championships are the goal, this may be the most damning piece of history of all for the Vikings:

They haven’t drafted a quarterback who would make the Hall of Fame since 1961.

The Vikings’ current roster features two potential franchise quarterbacks, Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater. Both have knee injuries that threaten the team’s season and possibly their careers.

Either could theoretically be the starting quarterback at the end of this season and the beginning of next. But the team has to fear that neither will be able to recover well enough to be the players they are capable of being.

The last true franchise quarterback the Vikings employed, Culpepper, also had his career path ruined by a knee injury.

September 18, 2017

Bradford-less Vikings fall to Steelers, 26-9

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

After being the toast of the NFL last week, Minnesota’s starting quarterback Sam Bradford missed several team practices with knee inflammation and was eventually declared unable to play in Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This meant number two quarterback Case Keenum was the starter and freshly promoted-from-the-practice-squad Ryan Sloter was the backup. The oddsmakers were quick to drop the Vikings’ chances from being 5.5 point underdogs to 11 points, and as the game unfolded, you could certainly understand why.

Despite the final score, this game could have been much more competitive, except for Viking penalties (14, but only 12 accepted for 136 yards), particularly defensive pass interference and holding: both Steelers touchdowns were made possible by Viking infractions.

While it’s undeniable that the Vikings’ offensive line has been much improved from last season, they are still not good enough to keep the pocket clean for as long as Keenum needed (Bradford appears to have a faster release than Keenum, so some of the pressure that got to Keenum might not have gotten to Bradford on the same play call). Names that got called far too often by the TV crew were Nick Easton and Mike Remmers — good offensive linemen almost never get mentioned in the course of a game, but linemen who get beat or get penalized get their names called.

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September 12, 2017

MNF – Vikings beat New Orleans Saints 29-19 in season opener

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

One of the bigger story lines coming in to Monday night’s game between the New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings was the return of running back Adrian Peterson. After spending his entire career with the Vikings, he was clearly relishing the chance to play against his former team and provided lots of juicy quotes to the media about his plan to “stick it” to the Vikings. It didn’t quite work out the way he was hoping…

The Vikings’ expensively re-tooled offensive line — who didn’t play a single down together during the preseason — did a great job of protecting Sam Bradford. Right tackle Mike Remmers was responsible for one sack by Cameron Jordan, but otherwise the line largely kept the pressure away from Bradford. Without the need to constantly check down or run for his life (like most of the 2016 season), Bradford put in a very impressive performance, 27 of 32 for 346 yards and three touchdowns. The most impressive was a lightning-quick three play drive late in the first half that covered 74 yards and ended in a touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs.

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July 28, 2017

Vikings training camp begins

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

While the rookies and some recent free agents reported to camp on Sunday, the bulk of the team and most of the veterans didn’t have to report until Wednesday afternoon. The theory to this was to build on the OTA and rookie mini-camp experiences for the younger players, and those new to the Vikings organization this season, before the full team practice sessions began. The team is holding their final training camp at Minnesota State University in Mankato after 52 years, and next year’s training camp will be held in their new team facilities in Eagan, MN.

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January 2, 2017

Vikings win final regular season game against Chicago, 38-10

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:13

Sensibly, the Canadian TV schedules omitted this game as having no bearing on the playoff standings and chose to broadcast games that still mattered. Neither the Chicago Bears nor the Minnesota Vikings had anything left to play for, aside from pride and perhaps a minor shift in final draft standings for 2017. The Vikings finally played the kind of game fans had been waiting for since week six of the season, producing the season’s highest score (with some significant help from the defence).

Sam Bradford set a few records during the game: the NFL record for completion rate at 71.6%, and the Vikings single-season record for completed passes (395, beating Daunte Culpepper’s 379 in 2004) and lowest interception percentage (0.9%, beating Brett Favre’s 1.32% in 2009).

Also setting records was Kyle Rudolph who moved into first place in team history with his 29th touchdown reception by a tight end, previously held by Steve Jordan. Overall, he also passed Joe Senser for most catches by a tight end with 83 for the season.

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December 12, 2016

Vikings beat Jaguars 25-16 to keep playoff hopes (barely) alive

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:07

I knew I wasn’t going to be able to watch Sunday’s game even if it was broadcast in the Toronto area, as I’d promised to head down to Burlington to bring my mother to our place for the holidays. This means my Twitter feed was completely empty of my traditional game-related tweets on Sunday afternoon (you’re welcome, guys).

After dropping two games to the Detroit Lions, the Vikings are looking at a wildcard rather than the NFC North title to get them into the post-season. Even getting the wildcard pretty much requires the Vikings to win all of their remaining games (and still will likely need some help), which will be a challenge with an offensive line consisting of a hay bale, a regional champion mannequin challenge player, a scarecrow, a mime with a nasty makeup-related skin condition, and young Bobby McFarlane (the backup right tackle at Our Lady of Hopeless Causes High School in Mankato, MN). Honestly, it’s a genuine miracle that Sam Bradford is still alive at this point in the season … and keeping him alive for the last quarter of the season will be a double miracle.

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December 2, 2016

Great defensive effort wasted in Vikings loss to Cowboys, 17-15

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:41

The Dallas Cowboys visited Minnesota on Thursday night, bringing their NFL-best record and a ten-game winning streak. They left town with their streak still intact, but it came down to the last minute of the game to secure the win.

With Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer resting at home after emergency eye surgery, special teams co-ordinator Mike Priefer was acting head coach, to allow offensive co-ordinator Pat Shurmur and defensive co-ordinator George Edwards to concentrate on their respective areas of responsibility. The Vikings got a few key players back from injury, with wide receiver Stefon Diggs and cornerback Terence Newman both suited up for the game.

The game was very close from start to finish, which meant that minor miscues could have huge ramifications on the scoreboard. I missed most of the first quarter, but my Twitter feed provided all the “T.J. Clemmings is garbage” content during that time to assure me that things were back to their putrid normal on the offensive line. Cowboys quarterback phenomenon was shown to be merely human through most of the game, and his biggest contributions to keeping drives alive were on scrambles (aided by some pretty blatant holding on the offensive line, especially against Brian Robison).

Both of the Cowboys’ touchdowns came after a minor glitch gave Dallas an opportunity and they were able to capitalize. Other than that, the Vikings defence kept the lid on all game. One was a mistake in coverage, as Harrison Smith was too aggressive in covering Dez Bryant, and the second was a fumbled punt by Adam Thielen deep inside Viking territory.

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November 25, 2016

Vikings fall short (again) against the Lions, 16-13

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:37

The Vikings played the early US Thanksgiving game at Detroit yesterday and were in reach of a win in the final minute of the game, but a rare interception of Sam Bradford gave the Lions the win instead. With top wide receiver Stefon Diggs on the sideline, Bradford depended on getting the ball out as fast as humanly possible to Adam Thielen, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Kyle Rudolph, as the patchwork line lost yet another starter with center Joe Berger out with a concussion (and a hip injury to backup tackle Jeremiah Sirles).

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October 24, 2016

Vikings lose 21-10 in Philadelphia – Vikings fanbase, in unison, “The Sky Is Falling!”

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:11

The NFL’s last unbeaten team has faceplanted, allowing the surviving members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins to pop the champagne one more time (I doubt that any of them actually follow this tradition, but it’s a sports writer’s meme that just won’t die). As a football game, Sunday’s match between the Vikings and the Eagles was painful to watch for fans of either team, as the turnover bug bit hard and repeatedly. “How bad was the game?”, I pretend to hear you ask. It was literally this bad:

And that wasn’t even the entire first quarter of “action”.

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October 10, 2016

Houston Texans come up short against the Zim Reapers, 31-13

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Going into an early bye week, the Vikings dominated the J.J. Watt-deprived Texans in every phase of the game until late when the Texans finally managed a first down (other than by penalty) and scored their lone touchdown of the day. In four total meetings between the teams, the Texans are still winless (they’re the only team in the league without a win against Minnesota). At one point, the Texans had more yards on penalties (mostly against cornerback Xavier Rhodes) than they did in combined offence, making this tweet rather appropriate:

Before the game started, Minnesota’s leading receiver was ruled out with a groin injury. Without Stefon Diggs, could the rest of the Vikings receiving corps step up to replace him? Yes, both Adam Thielen (7 for 127 yards) and Cordarrelle Patterson (4 for 39 yards) scored receiving touchdowns, along with a 79-yard punt return touchdown by Marcus Sherels (the fifth in his career, extending his team record), and a rushing touchdown from Matt Asiata. Tack on a perfect day from kicker Blair Walsh who made a field goal and all four of his conversion attempts, which at least keeps him on the roster for another week…

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September 19, 2016

Vikings beat the Green Bay Packers 17-14 to inaugurate new home stadium

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:06

The Sunday night prime-time game between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers came down to the last minute, with either team able to claim victory until Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes secured an interception of an Aaron Rogers pass to shut down Green Bay’s final drive and allow the Vikings to run out the clock to seal the win.

Newly acquired starting quarterback Sam Bradford quieted a lot of concerns with his performance in the game:

For a guy best known for his injury history when he arrived here 15 days ago, Sam Bradford sure earned a lot of points for not backing down from a beating in his Minnesota Vikings debut Sunday night.

“That dude is one tough (expletive),” Vikings guard Alex Boone told USA TODAY Sports after Bradford completed 22 of 31 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns (and officially took 10 hits) in a 17-14 triumph over the rival Green Bay Packers.

“There was a couple times he got hit – I thought he was dead. He wasn’t moving, so I had to pick him up. I’m like, ‘Sam, don’t be dead.’ Next play: bullet. You’re going, ‘Jesus, this guy’s a beast!’”

The Vikings needed that production and resiliency from their new quarterback on a night they again struggled to get star running back Adrian Peterson going before he was carried to the locker room in the third quarter with a right knee injury.

Peterson had minimal swelling and could extend his leg after the game, providing optimism he avoided a season-ending ACL tear – an injury Bradford is familiar with, since two of them are responsible for 25 of the 35 starts he missed because of health in his first six NFL seasons.

Bradford, 28, did go briefly to the locker room Sunday for an X-ray after taking a helmet to his left (non-throwing) hand on the Vikings’ first touchdown drive, causing nasty swelling from his wrist to his pinkie that was captured by NBC’s cameras.

“It was nice and fat,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said of Bradford’s hand. “But he’s gutsy. Just to stand in there and take hit after hit – it speaks volume of him as a player and a person.”

Equally impressive: Bradford outplayed two-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers with all of two weeks to learn Norv Turner’s offense and about a half-dozen practices under his belt, including three last week getting most of the reps after veteran backup Shaun Hill started the opener.

Before his injury, Peterson was still struggling to find space to run, as the run blocking wasn’t opening up lanes for him and he was ending up with zero or negative yards on several attempts.

For the Packers, Aaron Rodgers didn’t have one of his better games: at one point, there were more pass interference penalty yards than offensive yards. Veteran cornerback Terence Newman was the goat on back-to-back PI penalties that moved the Packers down to the goal line, and Trae Waynes (starting for the injured Xavier Rhodes) was flagged multiple times (and as the TV commentators pointed out, usually he was in good position but being too obviously “grabby” and the officials were watching).

The accolades awarded to Stefon Diggs after his game last week will be redoubled after he put up career-high numbers last night:

After his 182-yard performance on Sunday Night Football, Stefon Diggs was quick to point out that N’Sync is just a band and not how he would describe the first time he and Sam Bradford. His game said otherwise.

In the Minnesota Vikings’ 17-14 win over the Green Bay Packers, Diggs proved to be the best wide receiver Bradford has ever had. He also showed the national TV audience that – for the first time since Randy Moss – a wide receiver is now the centerpiece of the Vikings’ offense.

“I wouldn’t say ‘in sync’ I don’t know too much about N’Sync [except] the band, but [Bradford] does everything the right way,” Diggs said. “He works hard, he comes in every day an we communicate. To get on the same page, you have to communicate. Throughout practice and games, he tells me what he sees, I tell him what I see and we try to make it work.”

Not only did he make a spectacular touchdown catch that turned out to be the game-winning score, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner called for a pass play toward Diggs on third down with 1:40 seconds remaining and the Packers out of timeouts. A pass interference call on Green Bay essentially ended the game. There is no bigger sign of confidence than that.

Diggs got open in every way possible against the Packers, finding holes in zones, turning short passes into long gains and going deep. He caught a 44-yard pass from Bradford on the team’s final drive of the first half that led to a Blair Walsh field goal.

Indicative of his mentality, Diggs’ first comment after the game was not about his nine catches on 11 targets, it was about an unsportsmanlike penalty he took in the fourth quarter.

“That won’t happen again,” he said.

September 18, 2016

What Sam Bradford and the Vikings offer each other

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:43

In Saturday’s Star Tribune, Jim Souhan looks at the Vikings’ newly annointed starting quarterback and says it can go one of two ways — “Two years from now, Bradford will either have proved he can lead a winning team, or he will be on his way to Ponder-osa.”

Sunday night, millions of Vikings fans and dozens of Vikings players will ask what Sam Bradford can do for them.

Just as important is the reverse.

What can the Vikings do for Bradford?

The answer will shape this season, and the next, and so will Bradford’s career, and perhaps his last chance to improve his reputation.

Bradford was the first pick in the 2010 draft. Which means he was selected by a terrible team.

Bradford did not singlehandedly elevate the Rams. Neither has anyone else. They haven’t had a winning record since 2003.

Bradford muddled through, putting up numbers not all that different from Teddy Bridgewater’s, for four seasons before being traded to Philadelphia.

Last year with the Eagles, while adapting to a new and complex offense, Bradford completed 65 percent of his passes, throwing 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions for an 86.4 passer rating.

Last year, in his second season with the Vikings, Bridgewater completed 65 percent of his passes, throwing 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions for a rating of 88.7.

Bradford is on his third team and was asked to be a savior, so his numbers are considered disappointing. Bridgewater is younger and thought to be improving, so his very similar numbers are considered promising.

The question facing Bradford is whether, at 28, he is still a growth stock. While there is no sure way to predict his future, this is a good time to point out that even great quarterbacks need help, and that Bradford never has played for a winning team, or with a running back like Adrian Peterson.

Two years from now, Bradford will either have proved he can lead a winning team, or he will be on his way to Ponder-osa.

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