There are always various twists and turns in an NFL season.
With Week 7 on the horizon, Andy Benoit of The Monday Morning Quarterback took a look at his seven biggest surprises for far in 2016.
Benoit listed the performance of the Vikings offense as one of them, especially given all the injuries the unit has sustained.
After losing their starting quarterback during training camp and their Hall of Fame running back in Week 2, the Vikings rank dead last in rushing. And yet they're the only undefeated team in the NFL.
Sam Bradford has been sensational and done whatever has been needed to win each week. With a rock-solid defense such as Minnesota's, all that is usually needed to win is a controlled passing game and minimal turnovers. But there have been times when Bradford has had to make critical throws downfield, and he has done it well—his passer rating of 137.5 on throws 15 yards or farther tops the NFL.
Benoit noted that a reason the production of the Vikings offense shouldn't be a surprise is the play of Bradford, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Bradford has thrown for 990 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions in four starts, compiling a passer rating of 109.7.
Bradford was once drafted first overall for a reason. He has upper-level arm strength and precision accuracy. And, though results over the years have been mixed, he is experienced when it comes to learning a new system. Now he's playing in a proven one under Norv Turner, one of football's most revered quarterback instructors. (And under Norv's son, Scott, who after this year will likely be regarded as one of the game's best young QB coaches.)
The Vikings are 5-0 and the lone unbeaten team in the league. Thanks to Bradford's strong play and a defense that is giving up a league-low 12.6 points per game, Benoit said the trajectory of the Vikings is pointed up.
The Vikings' defense is great and so the offense will continue having a comfortable margin for error. In the NFL, margin for error doesn't mean you can play poorly and get away with it. It means you can be more selective with taking chances. That keeps an offense more in command.
Smith content to fly under the radar with Vikings
It's no secret to Vikings fans that safety Harrison Smith is one of the top defensive players in the league.
While the rest of the NFL world is starting to find that out as well, Smith is more than happy to fly under the radar and simply make plays.
Ben Baskin of Sports Illustrated profiled Smith in a recent article and said the former first-round pick revels in being a dependable and consistent player.
Andrew Sendejo offers this metaphor to explain why his fellow safety—who after big plays just brushes himself off and walks back to the huddle—doesn't attract attention: When your car starts every morning, you don't celebrate. You expect that to happen. That's Smith. Excellence is simply routine for him. Two seasons ago the Vikings miked up Harrison for one game, hoping to get the kind of raw, honest audio that NFL Films often delivers. The result: *"Just a lot of grunting," says (Vikings General Manager Rick) Spielman.*
*After one game last season a national radio station asked Minnesota's p.r. staffers if they could corral one of their "high-level guys" for an interview. When the Vikings said Smith was on board, the station declined—he wasn't high-level enough. Spielman shakes his head. *"I guess he's been our well-kept secret."
Smith leads the Vikings with 40 tackles through fives games and has added two passes defended, a pair of tackles for loss and a sack.
Smith told Baskin that he is driven by a quiet self-confidence on the field.
When talking about football himself, Smith directs attention to his teammates. He quickly shuts down the notion that the Vikings' flexible scheme would not work without him. Eventually he does confess to his belief that he is the best safety in the league, but even this he is only able to talk about in the second person. "You have to believe you are the best, before you even play a down," he says. "You need that to play at a high level, whether it's true or not."