EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Sam Bradford has started all of four games for Minnesota.
The Vikings aren’t yet one-third of the way through their schedule.
The early return on that expensive emergency trade the Vikings made for Bradford, though, could not have been better.
They’re the only undefeated team remaining in the NFL, and Bradford has the second-best passer rating in the league (109.8) among quarterbacks with a qualifying amount of attempts.
“Obviously, it’s a great start,” said Bradford, who was fetched from Philadelphia for a first-round draft pick in 2017 and a conditional selection in 2018 that’ll be in the second, third or fourth round. “You couldn’t ask for anything more than being 5-0 going into your bye week.”
Waiting for the Vikings after the welcomed break is a road game on Oct. 23 against those Eagles (3-1), who haven’t missed Bradford one bit because of the success of rookie Carson Wentz.
Coach Mike Zimmer cracked a couple of smiles after Minnesota’s 31-13 victory over Houston on Sunday, but he’ll soon enter his usual state of anxiety about the upcoming opponent and how to slow its offense.
“Like Coach Zimmer said after the game, it’s still a lot of work this team needs to do,” Bradford said. “I think they’re still rooting for us to improve, and I think that’s our mindset going forward. We’re not satisfied. It’s early in the year, and we haven’t accomplished anything yet.”
No, but the Vikings have at least mastered the art of resilience, after losing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, running back Adrian Peterson, left tackle Matt Kalil and now right tackle Andre Smith, all perhaps for the rest of the season.
Bridgewater’s colossal injury to his left knee triggered the deal for Bradford eight days before the opener , and the 28-year-old former No. 1 overall draft pick has meshed with his new teammates and picked up offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s playbook as if he’s been in purple his whole pro career.
“The offensive coaches have done a great job of getting him prepared,” Zimmer said. “The one thing about Sam is that he will communicate the things that he likes to do.
“If we have a play in the game plan that he doesn’t like, he’s going to tell Norv, and we get rid of the play. We try to do things that he’s comfortable with, even though it’s been a short period of time.”
When wide receiver Stefon Diggs (groin) was held out on Sunday against the Texans, Adam Thielen stepped up with seven catches for 127 yards and a tone-setting touchdown on the opening drive .
“I really didn’t know much about this team at all, to be honest, before I got here. I think I learn a little bit more each week,” Bradford said. “I think we’ve definitely got a lot of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball, a lot of guys that we feel if can get the ball in their hands then good things will happen.”
According to the NFL, the Vikings are only the second team since 1933 to go five games into the season without throwing an interception while also winning all five. Roman Gabriel and the Los Angeles Rams also did so in 1969, when Gabriel went on to be voted the NFL MVP.
Peterson won the award in 2012 and led the league in rushing again last year, but he had only 50 yards on 31 carries before damaging his right knee.
His absence, as strange as it sounds, could actually have been a productive development for the offense provided Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata remain healthy as a viable two-man fill-in.
Bradford, who has completed 70.4 percent of his passes for 990 yards and six touchdowns, acknowledged on Sunday the creative spark that followed the loss of Peterson.
Rather than lining up in traditional setups for power running plays, the Vikings have been operating predominantly out of the shotgun and frequently using spread formations for a quick-passing, up-tempo attack.
“I think that’s a little bit different than what the offense has done in the past,” Bradford said. “I think it’s just us getting to know each other, us getting familiar with where we’re going as an offense. But I think it’s just guys buying in.”