1. Bradford plays role in pass protection
The Vikings allowed less pressure on Sam Bradford in 2016 than they did on Teddy Bridgewater in 2015. Part of the drop in quarterback pressures seemed attributable to Bradford’s quick release last year, and even last Monday night against the Saints, when he had more time to look downfield behind solid protection, Bradford still had a hand in keeping himself clean. He threw in an average of 2.36 seconds that night, according to Pro Football Focus, and changed the Vikings’ protection at the line of scrimmage to set up a 44-yard gain to Adam Thielen. Case Keenum was pressured 46.1 percent of the time Sunday, and some of the issues — like a flubbed cadence that had Vikings linemen coming off the ball late on one play, or a dropback that was too deep for his offensive linemen’s sets — seemed attributable to the quarterback himself. Keenum took the blame for some of the pressures, and if the Vikings have to spend more time with their No. 2 quarterback playing behind their rebuilt offensive line, the benefit of Bradford controlling the line of scrimmage shouldn’t be overlooked.
2. Waynes’ eventful day a learning experience
The last time the Vikings faced Ben Roethlisberger, at Wembley Stadium in London, he went after second-year cornerback Josh Robinson early and often. On Sunday, Roethlisberger got the better of third-year corner Trae Waynes for a couple of big plays that revealed how the 11th overall pick in the 2015 draft – now in his first year as a full-time starter – still is adapting to the game in the NFL. A 49-yard pass interference penalty in the second quarter came when Waynes grabbed Martavis Bryant’s back just before the ball arrived. “He was in good shape, and when he turned, he didn’t accelerate to the upfield shoulder,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “That’s why he was behind. He ended up getting to that ball a little early.” And on Roethlisberger’s 51-yard connection with Bryant in the third quarter, the receiver turned on the jets to get past Waynes after Roethlisberger’s hard count earned him a free play. “[Bryant] saw the officials throw the flag,” Zimmer said. “The receiver kind of stopped and then he took off, Trae kind of stopped and then took off, and the guy made a catch.”
3. Zimmer contrite about crankiness Sunday
As many Vikings fans undoubtedly know by now, the coach takes losing hard. That was evident as soon as he started his news conference after the Vikings’ loss Sunday, when he went straight to taking questions. During a testy 5-minute exchange with reporters, he said little about Bradford’s health. On Monday, Zimmer apologized for his mood with reporters Sunday, saying he was upset about the game and frustrated with being asked the same questions several times. The apology, while thoughtful and appreciated, wasn’t necessary; those of us in the media understand we’re going to be in the line of fire sometimes, and realize it’s part of the job. What did stand out, though, was Zimmer’s admission that his terseness was a disservice to fans who invest plenty of time, money and emotion into the team. “Sometimes after the game, I’m upset,” he said, “and I know our fans deserve better than that. ” Fair enough. Give the coach credit for understanding he’s speaking to fans through the media, and for owning up to his Sunday surliness.