Skip to main content

Scouting Report: Vikings

A look at what the Steelers will be up against on Sunday afternoon against the Minnesota Vikings:

1-1-10: Quarterback Sam Bradford is in his second season with his third NFL team, but he remains the player selected first overall by St. Louis out of Oklahoma in 2010. There were reasons why that happened. One of the reasons in Bradford's case is his accuracy.

Bradford completed an NFL-record 71.6 percent of his passes in 2016.

"If he gets protection he can be as accurate as anybody I have studied," ESPN analyst Jon Gruden insisted during Monday night's broadcast of the Vikings' 29-19 victory over the Saints.

Bradford was protected against New Orleans by an offensive line that includes five players  starting at new positions (tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers were signed as unrestricted free agents and center Pat Elflein was drafted on the third round as a part of Minnesota's O-Line purge). The result was a 27-for-32 night for 346 yards and three TDs that was surgical at times.

Bradford arrived in Minnesota via a trade with Philadelphia just prior to the start of last season. This time around he's had an offseason and a preseason with the team he's playing for, which means he has familiarity with his receivers and enough of a grasp of the offense to call audibles, change protections and otherwise run the show more aggressively.

The Steelers will need to get after him and get him off his spot as often as possible (Bradford has adequate mobility and can throw on the run but would prefer not to).

BIG-PLAY CAPABLE: The Vikings' season high for completions of at least 20 yards in a game last season was five. They had eight such plays against the Saints.

THE LONG WAY HOME: Minnesota had three touchdown drives of 80-plus yards in 2016. The Vikings had 95- and 89-yard touchdown drives against the Saints (Minnesota also had a 74-yard touchdown march).

RHODES SCHOLAR: Fifth-year cornerback and former first-round pick Xavier Rhodes has previously been assigned by Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer to follow the other team's best receiver, and might be asked to shadow Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown (unless Brown lines up in the slot). Former first-round pick Trae Waynes, the cornerback opposite Rhodes, was beaten for a 52-yard completion (to wide receiver Tommylee Lewis) and an 8-yard touchdown (to tight end Coby Fleener) in the Saints game. Waynes was called for pass interference on the Lewis reception.

BACK TO THE FUTURE: Second-round pick Dalvin Cook is coming off a 22-carry, 122-yard effort in his NFL debut. Cook's night included a 32-yard run on his first carry of the fourth quarter and a 33-yard burst on his last carry of the fourth quarter. Both runs went right off a snap from the right hash and came out of the same formation (three wide receivers left and a tight end right, with Cook to the left of Bradford, who was in the shotgun).


PURPLE PEOPLE EATERS:** Defensive end Danielle Hunter, defensive tackle Tom Johnson, nose tackle Linval Joseph and defensive end Everson Griffen aren't yet a modern day reincarnation of Alan Page, Jim Marshall, Gary Larson and Carl Eller. But the Vikings' defensive line, which includes backup end Brian Robinson and backup tackle Shamar Stephen, is the strength of the Minnesota defense. The Vikings only sacked Drew Brees once in the opener, but they're adept at collapsing pockets and applying pressure without having to resort to a lot of exotic blitzes or having to outnumber the protection. Hunter (12.5) and Griffen (eight) combined for 20.5 sacks last season. Minnesota was tied for fourth in the NFL in sacks in 2016 (41) and is tied for fourth in the league in sacks since Zimmer's arrival in 2014 (126).

MAKING THEM COUNT: Tight end Kyle Rudolph has 30 touchdown receptions on 268 career catches (one TD every 8.9 times he hauls in a pass).

SPECIAL EDITION: Minnesota kicker Kai Forbath was 15-for-15 on field goals last season and 3-for-3 against New Orleans. Forbath missed three extra points last season and another against the Saints. Cornerback Marcus Sherels has five career punt returns for a touchdown. Running back Jerick McKinnon brings 4.36 speed in the 40-yard dash to kickoff returns and isn't shy about bringing it out from deep in the end zone.

STAT THAT MATTERS: The Vikings held the Saints to 1-for-5 in red zone efficiency (20 percent) and 0-for-3 in goal-to-go efficiency. Minnesota was 3-for-6 in the red zone (50 percent) and converted its only goal-to-go opportunity into a touchdown.

HE SAID IT: "The Vikings don't always get there, but they hit the quarterback more than any team in pro football." _ Gruden on the Minnesota pass rush.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.