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What were the Vikings thinking with Sam Bradford?

Minnesota tried to rush Bradford’s knee injury, with near-catastrophic results.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings have been treading water without quarterback Sam Bradford, who had an outstanding Week 1 performance and then disappeared with a knee injury. Case Keenum is an obvious downgrade, but he’d done the bare minimum to keep the Vikings at a 2-2 record when they traveled to face the Chicago Bears in Week 5.

In a somewhat surprising move, Bradford was active and started the game, despite few indications that he was 100 percent healthy or even getting much practice time. If the decision was eyebrow-raising at the time, it became downright disastrous when the game kicked off.

Bradford wasn’t ready to play, and that was obvious from the first snap. He was stiffer than ever in the pocket, taking forever to make his reads and sailing easy passes. The Bears could tell Bradford was playing on one good leg and teed off, hitting him relentlessly and smothering the Vikings’ offense every time they took the field.

The low point came at the end of the first quarter. With the Vikings pinned at their own end zone, Bradford hung back like a deer in headlights, making no attempt to get rid of the ball or even sense the pressure. He got dropped for one of the easiest safety sacks you will ever see.

At this point, even the casual fan could see that Bradford’s mental game simply wasn’t there. Quarterbacks have been benched for less.

Even RG3 could see that Bradford needed to come out.

As the second quarter dragged on, Bradford kept taking hits and limping around on his bad knee. He didn’t even make it to halftime, eventually tapping out as Keenum came in to finish off the last few seconds. Bradford’s final stat line was a horror show: 5-of-11 passing for 36 yards.

Keenum played through the entire second half, and not coincidentally, the Vikings’ offense woke up a little. He led a touchdown drive to start the third quarter and played a big role in the finish, moving the Vikings into range to set up a game-winning field goal. Keenum is not a great quarterback by any means, but it’s striking how much of a difference he made compared to a hobbled Bradford.

At the end of the day, the Vikings are 3-2 and could still make a playoff push, but starting Bradford was a hideously reckless decision. Either the coaches tried to rush him, or Bradford is a proud individual who tried to rush himself. Either way, if he’s not ready to play, then he’s not ready to play, and it’s irresponsible to trot him on the field in that state — especially with his lengthy history of ACL injuries.

The Vikings are lucky that Bradford didn’t suffer more serious damage, otherwise they’d be in a lot more hot water despite the win. It’s time to take his longterm health seriously and shut him down until they’re absolutely certain he’s ready. He had no business taking the field Monday night, and the Vikings should be ashamed for how they let this play out.

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