From the time he entered the game to a chorus of boos until the Vikings' final possession, Sam Bradford was treated rudely in his return to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday. The Eagles defense sacked their former teammate 12 times, racking up six sacks, forcing four fumbles and causing an interception in a 21-10 victory (see Instant Replay).
That the Eagles like to get after the quarterback and have the talent to do it wasn't exactly news to Bradford, though. Prior to the trade that sent him to Minnesota, the seven-year veteran spent the offseason and training camp working against Jim Schwartz's defense, not to mention the entire 2015 campaign with a lot of the personnel.
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Bradford knew what was coming, and he still didn't have enough time to react.
"We knew that they were good up front," Bradford said postgame. "I've got to throw it away, get it out quicker, we've got to do a better job of sticking on guys. There's a lot of answers to that problem."
Not surprisingly, Bradford's performance suffered as a result of all that pressure, completing 58.5 percent of his passes for 5.5 yards per attempt and one touchdown. The numbers were even worse than they look, as prior to the Vikings' meaningless scoring drive in the final five minutes, he was 15 for 31 for 134 yards with the interception.
Bradford pointed to that pick as being a pivotal play in the game too. The Vikings had excellent starting field position at the Eagles' 2-yard line after a Carson Wentz interception. Three plays later, Bradford was hit by Brandon Graham as he went to throw, and Rodney McLeod snatched the misfire in the back of the end zone (see standout plays).
"The way we played today was unacceptable," Bradford said. "We did a lot of things today that we haven't done in the first five weeks. The things that we did today will keep you from winning football games.
"We've got to figure out a way to not make mistakes. We can't turn the ball over when we're in the red zone. We've got to come away from points, especially earlier in the game. There were just too many self-inflicted wounds today. You're not going to overcome that on the road against a good team."
Despite being under constant duress, Bradford refused to point the finger at his offensive line.
"Obviously it makes it tougher, but I've got to find a way to overcome that," Bradford said. "I've got to find a way to get the ball out quicker and just find completions to get us in a rhythm and keep us on the field."
Protection was a serious issue though, as one would expect when the hit and sack numbers are so high. Bradford had only been sacked eight times in four games this season entering Sunday, but behind a patchwork unit decimated by injuries, he was eaten alive by the relentless Eagles pass-rush.
For that reason, Mike Zimmer was a little more forgiving of Bradford's outing. The Vikings head coach went so far as to say his offensive line was "overpowered" by the Eagles' front.
"He missed some throws today that he normally makes," Zimmer said of Bradford. "Dropped balls — it's hard to win football games when you do things like that. He got hit a lot, so it's hard to really evaluate his performance when it looked like a sieve in there."
When asked if there was any concern about Bradford as the Vikings quarterback going forward, Zimmer stood behind his player.
"It's hard to throw when somebody is grabbing your arm," Zimmer said. "I'm not concerned about Bradford."
While Bradford is familiar with this Eagles defense, the Eagles defense had intimate knowledge of Bradford's tendencies as well and came with a very different look on Sunday.
Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz dialed up more blitzes than usual, which safety Malcolm Jenkins admitted after the game was designed to confuse Bradford and exploit his weaknesses.
"We knew we were going to come with a couple looks that Sam hadn't seen," Jenkins said. "We don't really zone-pressure much. If we do pressure, it's usually man-pressure, but we didn't want to give him quick windows where guys had their backs turned. It's just too easy on him. He's a smart quarterback.
"We knew what he likes and what he doesn't like, which looks frustrate him, what he can figure out and what he can't. We kind of geared our plan as far as our pressures toward that."
Schwartz's game plan clearly worked, even though Zimmer realized beforehand the Eagles would throw the kitchen sink at Bradford.
"You kind of go into the game knowing they're going to come after Bradford," Zimmer said. "I didn't go to Harvard, but I can probably figure that out, and we didn't get it done."
Bradford was a little more reserved than normal after the game, admitting the manner in which the Vikings had just been beaten was disappointing. He hadn't just been beaten physically, but morally too.
As far as whether he was out to prove anything to the Eagles after trading him away in late August, though, Bradford claimed that didn't bother him.
"I really don't have any bitter feelings toward Philly," Bradford said. "It's not like I was harboring any of that, trying to go out there and prove them wrong. I was just trying to help the guys in this locker room go out and get a win."