The question had not been completed before Sam Bradford started shaking his head.
What would the NFL’s record in completion percentage mean to you?
“Honestly? Right now, not much,” Bradford said.
The Vikings quarterback leads the league by completing 71.6 percent of his passes, which at season’s end would rank as the most accurate year ever by an NFL quarterback. Daunte Culpepper holds the Vikings’ record at 69.2 percent in 2004.
This season, however, hasn’t provided much reason for the Vikings — and specifically their 31st-ranked offense — to celebrate. Losing seven of the past nine games will do that, so Bradford did not look like a man on the verge of setting an NFL record when broached with the possibility Tuesday.
“The focus is to win games. It’s not about stats,” Bradford said. “It’s not about any of that. So, I don’t think it would do much for me to be honest.”
With a .500 record and two games to go, the Vikings are just trying to save what’s left of their season.
“You could ask 90 percent of our guys on offense, they probably don’t even know that’s possible right now” tight end Kyle Rudolph said. “We’re focused on going out there and winning games.”
Bradford would be only the sixth NFL quarterback to eclipse 70 percent completion in a season, joining Drew Brees, Steve Young, Joe Montana, Ken Anderson and Sammy Baugh. Brees has the record at 71.2 percent in 2011.
However, Bradford is achieving the mark in a different manner.
His 6.9 yards per attempt would be the lowest average among quarterbacks to complete more than 70 percent in a season. And it actually would be near Bradford’s career high (7.0), as he averages 6.5 yards per pass through seven seasons.
Bradford has continued to be a short-pass thrower with the Vikings, necessitated by an injury-ravaged offensive line that has started seven different combinations.
So the ball has been coming out quickly to Bradford’s go-to reliable targets in Rudolph and receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. The trio has caught nearly 70 percent of passes thrown their way for a restricted Vikings offense that ranks 26th in passing touchdowns and 21st in yards per throw.
“It is what it is,” Thielen said. “It obviously shows [Bradford] is a good football player, but at the same time we’re trying to win games.”
Whether throwing the short or long ball, Bradford has been an accurate passer for the Vikings since he was acquired from Philadelphia in September. Only New England’s Tom Brady has thrown fewer interceptions among starting quarterbacks.
“He definitely makes it easy on us as receivers,” said Thielen, who has caught nearly three-fourths of his targets. “He puts it in places where we don’t have to do a whole lot other than put your hands there.”
Bradford’s throws have become even safer under interim offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who has further emphasized faster throws to keep the quarterback clean. The Vikings already were one of the NFL’s quickest passing attacks under former offensive coordinator Norv Turner. With Turner calling the plays, Bradford took a few more downfield shots and, overall, completed 66.5 percent of his passes.
The shift to Shurmur has seen more of a sideline-to-sideline passing game, further explaining Bradford’s record completion rate for an otherwise lackluster offense. He has completed 75.6 percent of passes since Shurmur took over play calling.
“That’s kind of where our offense has shifted and kind of what we have been doing as of late,” Bradford said. “I would say it’s probably a little bit of both [accuracy and play calling.]”
The NFL completion record would not be much of a consolation prize, Bradford said, after he enjoyed a 4-0 start as the Vikings quarterback. A 2-7 record since has all but eliminated their chances for a playoff berth, which seemed like a certainty only months ago.
“Obviously, it’s been a long past nine weeks or so,” Bradford said.