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Zimmer, Vikings Recognize Bradford's Toughness in Win over Packers

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –The NFC North has a reputation for being physical, and last night's Border Battle was no exception.

Minnesota's defense sacked Aaron Rodgers five times and added eight quarterback hits. Conversely, however, Sam Bradford was sacked four times and hit an additional 10 times by the Packers defense.

Kyle Rudolph said Bradford fit in well despite being a part of the division for less than three weeks. Bradford's tenacity garnered respect from Rudolph and other teammates, as well.

"Taking hit after hit after hit, he just stayed there and kept throwing the ball downfield," Rudolph said of Bradford. "Unbelievable."

If Bradford was rattled, he didn't let on. He completed 22 of 31 passes for 286 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 121.2 en route to Minnesota's 17-14 takedown of its division rival. The former No. 1 draft pick averaged 9.2 yards per pass, the most of any Viking against the Packers since Daunte Culpepper in 2004.

"Sam did great and showed a ton of poise," linebacker Chad Greenway said. "He made so many great throws under pressure and getting hit, showed a lot of toughness."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's coaching style matches that of the division, as he aims to run a hard-working, no-nonsense, blue-collar team.

Zimmer said he knew Bradford could throw the ball well after viewing game film and seeing him in practice, but he's also been impressed with his grittiness. In the short time he's spent with Bradford, Zimmer appreciates the 28-year-old's work ethic. In discussing Bradford's performance as a first-time starter for Minnesota, the "toughness" buzzword resurfaced.  

"I thought he was tough – he hung in there on some of those throws," Zimmer said. "For the most part, I think he went to the right reads."

Early in the second quarter, Bradford momentarily went to the locker room to have an X-ray of his left hand taken. He didn't run in, however, until after throwing the Vikings first touchdown pass in U.S. Bank Stadium, an 8-yard toss to Rudolph. Zimmer said Bradford's passes to Rudolph and Stefon Diggs after suffering the injury proved Bradford's gumption, and the play on which he suffered the injury – a first-down conversion on fourth-and-1 – also spoke volumes.

"They zero blitzed, and he faded back away from the rusher and kind of let Diggs get open – [that] was a pretty heady play," Zimmer said. "I thought he did a lot of good things."

Adam Thielen, who caught four passes from Bradford for 41 yards, said he's appreciated the way Bradford immediately stepped into a leadership role for the offense.

"It's great to see a guy that comes in a huddle and demands the huddle, and [he] just stays poised no matter what's going on," Thielen said Monday. "He took a lot of shots last night and just kept staying in there and making those throws."

While recognizing Bradford's tenaciousness and his ability to perform under pressure, the Vikings want to improve their offensive line play and better protect their quarterback.

Zimmer told Twin Cities media on Monday that he wasn't happy with the unit's overall execution.

"We didn't play very [well] up front last night," Zimmer said. "We didn't pass protect very well; we didn't do a very good job in the run block. They got after us up front, I thought. We have to do better."

Guard Alex Boone, who joined the Vikings as a free agent this spring, agreed that the offensive line needs to improve.

Despite Minnesota getting the win against Green Bay, Boone said there are things to fix moving forward.

"It's just things here and there need to get cleaned up," Boone said. "You see hope in some plays, and in others, we just shoot ourselves in the foot and give up a sack or something stupid."

Boone said that Bradford took hits "he shouldn't have taken" and didn't skip a beat on offense, which was encouraging to the entire team.

"He was excited in the huddle, and I think it was the Sam we needed to see," Boone said. "He went out there and put on a show. He took some hits, some nasty hits, and still wasn't fazed by it.

"He was still excited in the huddle," Boone continued, "And that's one thing as an offensive lineman you want to see."

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