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Season Rewind: Bradford Steps In and Shines at QB After Preseason Trade

Posted Jan 10, 2017

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings experienced significant upheaval and stellar play at the quarterback position in an eventful 2016 season.

The chaos began on Aug. 30 when Teddy Bridgewater suffered a season-ending knee injury in a non-contact practice drill. Just five days later, Minnesota acquired Sam Bradford in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. 

While Shaun Hill would start the season opener in a win against the Titans, Bradford took over the starting role in Week 2 and put together a fantastic season.

Bradford completed 395 of 552 passes and set an NFL and Vikings franchise record with a completion percentage of 71.6. His 395 completions were also a franchise mark.

The former 2010 No. 1 overall pick threw for a career-high 3,877 yards in 15 starts and threw for 20 touchdowns, one score shy of his career best. Bradford only threw five interceptions, but his career-low of four occurred in 2013 when he played just seven games.

“I think Sam has played great this year,” Zimmer said at his end-of-the-season press conference. “I think he’s earned the right to be the starting quarterback.

“Sam has done remarkable, the things he’s done this year with all the things he’s had to do,” Zimmer later added.

Bradford, who arrived in Minnesota just eight days before the season opener, said 2016 was an interesting year in more ways than one.

“There was a stretch like each week it felt like we were battling something new and trying to figure out how to overcome something,” Bradford said. “I think it’ll take some time for me to really sit back and think about it and go back and look at everything myself and this group has gone through before I can really assess what happened this year.”

Bradford said he and the entire Vikings offense stands to benefit from a full offseason together. 

“I think as a quarterback any time you have time to get reps, whether it be during the season, whether it be during the offseason, during the OTA program, obviously, it helps because you develop that chemistry and you develop those relationships with guys on and off the field,” Bradford said.

Hill completed 19 of 35 pass attempts for 242 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions in his lone start plus two other games of limited action.

Taylor Heinicke did not appear in a game after being added to the 53-man roster midway through the season. He missed training camp, the preseason and the first part of the season with a foot injury.

As for Bridgewater, Zimmer said at his season-ending press conference that the former first-round pick has been hard at work rehabbing from his injury.

“Right now all I’m worried about is Teddy getting better,” Zimmer said. “He comes in here every single day, busts his rear end, and I just want him to get better right now.

“I do know this, Teddy is a guy that will do everything possible to get back as soon as he can possibly get back,” Zimmer later added. “And he would be a guy that I would never bet against.”

Notable Number

Bradford set an NFL record with his completion percentage, but his lack of interceptions was also an essential key to his success. Bradford’s interception ratio was less than one percent (0.9) and helped the Vikings have the second-lowest mark in the NFL behind New England.

Memorable Moment

Acquired just 15 days before the regular-season opener at brand new U.S. Bank Stadium, Bradford put on quite the show in his first appearance in front of the home crowd. Despite needing to ask for directions on how to get to the stadium, Bradford led the Vikings to a win over Minnesota’s biggest rival.

Bradford completed 22 of 31 passes for 286 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Packers, finding tight end Kyle Rudolph and wide receiver Stefon Diggs for scores. Bradford compiled a passer rating of 121.2, his second-best mark of the season.

Stats

Bradford: 395-of-552 passing for 3,877 yards, 20 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 99.3 passer rating

Hill: 19-of-35 passing for 242 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 76.1 passer rating