Sam Bradford’s latest successful start with the Vikings came through another storm of attrition.
Bradford turned in a 123.1 passer rating, his best in four starts since being traded from Philadelphia, behind an offensive line starting two replacement tackles. And before the end of the first series of Sunday’s 31-13 win over Houston, the Vikings needed backup guard Zac Kerin after Brandon Fusco suffered a concussion while blocking Texans edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney.
“Every time we think we are through adversity,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said, “somebody else goes down.”
Bradford completed 22 of 30 passes for 271 yards, two touchdowns and, for the fourth straight start, not a single interception. The opening drive ended with Bradford’s 36-yard touchdown strike to receiver Adam Thielen, who was elevated to a more prominent role in place of the injured Stefon Diggs.
The Vikings record for consecutive games without an interception is five, by Fran Tarkenton in 1973.
Team ready for week off
The Vikings’ bye week is much needed for an injury-ravaged offensive line as Bradford was hit eight times, including two sacks.
“We keep him healthy, we keep him upright and he’ll continue to do good things,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “Guys are believing in him, making good catches.”
Tight end MyCole Pruitt went down because of a knee injury in the third quarter, leaving the Vikings with one healthy tight end in Rudolph for the fourth quarter.
“We’re a little banged up right now, especially on the offensive side of the ball,” Bradford said. “So, hopefully with the bye week we can get some guys healthy and get some guys back.”
Pruitt is set for an MRI on his injured knee, according to Zimmer, who didn’t believe the injury was to the same knee that held Pruitt out of the first three games of the season.
Offensive line getting thin
Fusco was quickly ruled out of Sunday’s game after his head snapped back while trying to take on Clowney during a first-quarter run play.
Fusco now needs to clear the NFL concussion protocol before he can practice in full. The Vikings will practice Tuesday before breaking for the bye week. They already were without starting right tackle Andre Smith, who was replaced by Jeremiah Sirles as Smith recovers from a triceps injury.
“Get a little time to recoup, hopefully get some guys healthy,” Zimmer said.
The Vikings’ next game is Oct. 23 in Philadelphia.
Sherels tearing up record book
The always even-keeled, reliable Marcus Sherels is tied with Percy Harvin for most combined kick returns for touchdowns in a Vikings career with five.
Sherels’ 79-yard punt return for a touchdown gave the Vikings a 24-0 lead in the second quarter.
“We were joking with him at the end of the game when they had the camera on him and he looked away,” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “He plays with a lot of passion that he is not going to show.”
Sherels’ return was seventh longest in team history, and he moved into second place among Vikings in punt return yards (1,688). Leo Lewis had 1,812 in 11 seasons. Sherels, in his sixth season, also became the first Vikings player to have two games with more than 100 yards in punt returns.
Wright gets in on the action
Two of Jarius Wright’s four catches for 32 yards helped the Vikings convert on third downs as the reliable slot receiver once again had a role.
Without Diggs, the Vikings turned to Wright in three-receiver sets and he produced with his first grab of the season and then some. Wright was a healthy scratch for three of the first four games this season.
“Being in the league five years, I had a little more understanding than most guys probably would’ve had,” Wright said of not playing until Sunday. “You know, I understand, our group has been playing well.”
• The Texans lost five players to injury during the game in cornerback Johnathan Joseph, safety Quintin Demps, tight end Ryan Griffin, right guard Jeff Allen and linebacker Brian Peters.
• Numerous Vikings alumni attended Sunday’s game as they reinducted 21 former players at halftime into the Ring of Honor inside U.S. Bank Stadium.