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Minnesota Vikings QB Sam Bradford seeing blitzes, beating blitzes

Sam Bradford has seen increased blitzes and has been beating them consistently to keep giving the Minnesota Vikings offense a chance.

As the Minnesota Vikings offensive line has suffered more casualties of the job in the past month, quarterback Sam Bradford has seen increasing blitzes come his way.

It’s an understandable approach by opposing defenses, but it doesn’t seem to have affected Bradford’s effectiveness. In the last three games, when the blitzes have increased the most, he has passer ratings of 103.4, 104.9 and 98.7.

“I think he’s played very well. He’s been accurate, he’s made some great throws,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “He’s hung in there in the pocket. He’s done a nice job of preparing and getting things ready.” The Vikings offense certainly has issues that they have tried to address. Their running game continues to be ranked last in the NFL and they have had to adjust the way they approach their passing game with more quick hitters.

Last week against the Arizona Cardinals, Bradford had an average time to throw of 2.19 seconds, which was the second-fastest among NFL quarterbacks in Week 11, according to Pro Football Focus. Good thing Bradford was so quick to release it, too, given that the Cardinals’ average time to the passer was 2.16 seconds, meaning Bradford either had to release the ball to receivers running shorter routes or step out of harm’s way to limit his sacks to only two. 

“Last year (with the Philadelphia Eagles) we did some things that were fairly similar to this, where the ball was coming out pretty quick,” Bradford said. “Even going back to my rookie year, some of the concepts that me and (offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur) have run together, the ball comes out pretty quick. I would say it’s probably up there.”

Zimmer figured Bradford had been blitzed “maybe a little more” recently, but over the last three games, which includes their first meeting with the Detroit Lions, Bradford has been blitzed 40 percent of the time, compared to the first seven games when the Vikings were never blitzed more than 30 percent of the time and three times were blitzed less than 20 percent of time.

Quick passes and protection are the keys to overcoming that.

“Obviously if it’s a blitz we’re trying to get it out unless we’ve got it protected. But I think changing the protections is important and making sure they don’t know that we’re always in the same protection all the time,” Zimmer said. “That’s what makes it difficult defensively is some of those things.”

The Vikings seem to be doing a better job at picking up blitzes. The Lions started the most recent three-game trend of coming after Bradford. In that first meeting, the Vikings only gave up pressure on 26 percent of Bradford’s dropbacks and only 12 total pressures, according to PFF. In the two games prior to that, they had allowed pressure on over 40 percent of their passing plays and 44 total pressures.

Bradford has also made teams pay for blitzing him. When pressured in the first Lions meeting, he completed 66.7 percent of those throws with a 104.4 passer rating while under duress, according to PFF.

Zimmer said when teams bring the blitz and when they don’t is “more of a week-to-week thing,” depending on the opponent. Prior to the first Lions meeting, the Eagles blitzed heavily and the Chicago Bears followed that with very little blitzing. Those two games produced Bradford’s lowest passer ratings of the season – 71.6 against the Eagles and 88.6 against the Bears.

But in the last three games, despite the increased blitzing, he has produced two passer ratings above 100 and a third one at 98.7.

So what will the Lions do this time around?

That remains to be seen. The first meeting was Shurmur’s first as offensive coordinator and Bradford performed well with a quick passing game. Lately, Bradford has been solid when blitzed and the Vikings offense has given the Lions much more to think about this time around with an increased use of the Wildcat and other creative plays.


They appear to be trying to manufacture ways to keep drives moving with a running game that still has produced only one 100-yard game in rushing yards.

“I think every offense has to do a little bit of that, but I would say right now with where we are, yeah,” Bradford said about manufacturing yards. “There are some things where we have to be creative or we have to find ways to just move the ball down the field.”

Having Bradford continue to be a blitz beater will only help.



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