When it came to winning combinations for the Minnesota Vikings in their 29-19 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Monday night, it was hard to top quarterback Sam Bradford’s two touchdown passes to Stefon Diggs.
Beyond that, who’s to say that the Bradford-Adam Thielen connection should take a back seat after Thielen hauled in nine passes for 157 yards?
But the feel-good story that has had the powers that be at Vikings headquarters downright giddy for a while is the synergy between Bradford and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. Bradford, the former Heisman Trophy winner and former No. 1 NFL Draft pick, appears poised to take his pro career to new heights, and Shurmur has played no small part.
The 6-foot-4, 224-pound Bradford has the arm, intelligence and toughness to succeed in the NFL. Shurmur is one of the most respected offensive minds in the game, a man with a track record of getting the best out of his quarterbacks. A successful history together has produced mutual admiration and a like-minded approach to scoring touchdowns.
Shurmur was offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams in 2010, when Bradford arrived after being selected with the first pick in the NFL Draft. Shurmur held the same position with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015, when the Eagles acquired Bradford in a trade with the Rams.
Shurmur, who began last season as the Vikings’ tight end coach, played a major role in Bradford joining the Vikings prior to the start of the season following the severe knee injury to starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Shurmur’s glowing recommendation of Bradford helped convince Minnesota general manager Rick Spielman to trade a first-round draft pick to the Eagles for Bradford.
Shurmur was promoted to offensive coordinator on an interim basis last season following the midseason resignation of Norv Turner. After Bradford set an NFL record with a completion percentage of 71.6 for the season, Shurmur officially was handed the reins.
The one knock on Sam Bradford a season ago was his inability to throw the ball downfield. Part of that was due to a leaky offensive line that did not afford him the time to go deep. The Vikings’ rebuilt line was more than adequate on Monday against the Saints, and Bradford did his part to quiet some of his critics.
Five different receivers had catches of 15 yards or more. Bradford connected with Thielen for 44 yards, Diggs for 30 yards, and with Jerick McKinnon for 25 yards.
After the game, Bradford credited Shurmur’s game plan for the Vikings’ ability to throw the ball downfield.
“We had some shots in the game plan,” Bradford said, “but we kind of felt them out in the first quarter. We saw some looks that we thought we could take advantage of, and our guys outside did a great job of getting open. We were able to make some explosive plays based on what we saw early in the game.”
While the “it’s only one game” comments are valid, and the Saints’ defense is far from the stiffest test the Vikings offense will face this season, Bradford has the look of a quarterback set up for success.
“I think we have the capability to do that on a regular basis,” Bradford said of the Week 1 offensive output.
If they do, the aforementioned giddiness will run rampant in Minnesota.
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