Sam Bradford’s whirlwind season started with a trade from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Minnesota Vikings and ended with several career bests, including the NFL record for completion percentage in a season.
Bradford completed 71.6 percent of his passes this season, breaking the record previously held by New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees when he completed 71.2 percent of his passes in 2011.
“Obviously, it’s nice. It’s pretty cool,” Bradford said. “I would trade that for wins any day. But, the fact that we were able to go out there and accomplish that as a group. You know, everyone contributes to that and it’s pretty cool.”
Bradford completed 25 of 33 passes for 250 yards, three touchdowns, an interception and a 114.5 rating in Sunday’s 38-10 win over the Chicago Bears.
The Vikings traded for Bradford four days after starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater dislocated his knee and suffered multiple torn ligaments in his knee during a practice on Aug. 30. Bradford didn’t start the regular-season opener as he was getting acclimated to the Vikings offense, but he started all 15 games after that.
For the season, Bradford completed 395 of 552 passes for 3,877 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions, producing a 99.3 rating.
Head coach Mike Zimmer was asked last week if he would do the Bradford trade all over again – the Vikings gave up a first-round pick in 2017 and a conditional pick in 2018 – given that the Vikings didn’t make the playoffs. On Sunday, he was more emphatic on what Bradford has accomplished.
“If you set an NFL record, that’s pretty good. Usually you have a pretty good year,” Zimmer said. “I know you were asking about the trade awhile back so, now you can evaluate it. I think he played well. I think he played well all year. He took good care of the football. There were times when he hummed it in there and needed to put a little extra on it. There was times when he had touch passes.”
Bradford started the game 8-for-8 in the first quarter for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Over the course of the season, Bradford endured much.
He lost running back Adrian Peterson in Week 2 and Peterson played only 12 snaps after that. The Vikings also had eight different starting offensive line combinations as injuries ended the season for three starting tackles – Matt Kalil, Jake Long and Andre Smith (all former first-round picks) – and the team fell from a 5-0 start to finish the season with an 8-8 record.
“It was interesting. There was a stretch like each week it felt like we were battling something new and trying to figure out how to overcome something,” Bradford said. “But, the season just finished. I think it’ll take some time for me to really sit back and think about it and go back and look at everything myself and this group has gone through before I can really assess what happened this year.”
Through it all, Bradford has been impressively accurate, completing a franchise-record 395 passes, surpassing Daunte Culpepper’s 2004 record of 379.
“It is kind of funny, we had no idea he was close until they showed it up on the screen,” receiver Jarius Wright said. “It was a great accomplishment by him, and I am glad he got to do it with a great group of receivers we have. It was a fun year being able to catch passes from Sam.”
Stefon Diggs, who was inactive Sunday with a hip injury, finished as the leading receiver with 84 catches. Tight end Kyle Rudolph, who had 11 receptions on Sunday, finished second with 83 catches, and Adam Thielen finished as the leader in receiving yardage with 967.
“Obviously it’s nice to have him here,” Thielen said of Bradford. “He’s a great quarterback and just a great guy to have in the locker room. He made it easy on us receivers, which was nice obviously.”