Quarterback Sam Bradford probably wishes now he’d bought travel insurance for the journey that brought him to Minnesota just in time for the season opener.
What seemed like a steal for most of the last two months as the Vikings cruised to a 5-0 start increasingly feels like a bad trip.
The Chicago Bears exploited the same weaknesses in a 20-10 victory Monday night the Eagles had a week ago, plowing through a slapped-together offensive line and sacking Bradford five times. After stuffing the Vikings punch-less running attack time and again in the first half, Bears defenders keyed on Bradford and forced him into hurried throws an additional nine times.
”Obviously, the last two weeks haven’t gone our way,” Bradford said. ”It’s not the same team that came out and started 5-0, but we’ve got that same team in the locker room. … We just have to figure the way we did it, what the formula was those first five weeks and do it.”
After being sacked six times in Philadelphia, Bradford wound up 23 of 37 for 228 yards and a touchdown that pulled Minnesota within 10 points with little more than five minutes remaining. But coach Mike Zimmer conceded afterward the Bears were better in nearly every phase of the game.
”Sometimes, you get beat. They played better than we did,” Zimmer said in one of his longer answers. ”Simple as that.”
Unlike last week, when the coach criticized his offensive line for playing ”soft” in an ”embarrassing loss,” Zimmer avoided calling out any unit. He spent most of his five minutes at the podium tightly gripping the side of the lectern and at one point almost looked to be in pain, pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger.
Asked directly whether he was ”hopeful” he could shore up the offensive line, Zimmer said, ”It’s difficult right now. We haven’t proven it yet.
”So I don’t know if `hopeful’ is the right word,” he added. ”We got to get it fixed, though.”
The troubles up front limited Minnesota’s ground game to just 57 yards on 18 attempts. Matt Asiata had 30 yards on 11 carries, and like the offensive line, assistance isn’t likely to arrive anytime soon. Running back Adrian Peterson, who suffered a knee injury against the Packers in Week 2, is eligible to return in late November but could be out longer.
Even the Vikings defense, rated No. 1 overall in the NFL, was no help.
That unit was expected to keep Minnesota comfortably in the running for the wide-open NFC North. But Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, returning from a right thumb injury that shelved him late in Week 2, had plenty of time to roll up 252 yards and a touchdown on 20-of-31 passing.
”I thought he played well. He threw the ball well,” was about all Zimmer would say.
Where the Vikings turn for immediate help is anyone’s guess.
General manager Rick Spielman surrendered a first- and conditional fourth-round pick to get Bradford from Philadelphia after starting QB Teddy Bridgewater was injured. During the bye week, the Vikings coaxed veteran tackle Jake Long out of semi-retirement to shore up the offensive line, but that experiment seems doomed.
Long was responsible for two of the Eagles’ six sacks a week earlier – both led to strips – and Chicago’s rookie edge rusher Leonard Floyd blew by him for the Bears’ first sack.
”We got to keep Sam upright,” Long said. ”When he has a clean pocket he does great things. We just can’t let him get hit like that.”
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