stefon diggs

Monday Night Football: Vikings cruise, Broncos survive on MNF

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Monday Night Football: Vikings cruise, Broncos survive on MNF

MINNEAPOLIS -- Sam Bradford started his second season with Minnesota in style, passing for 346 yards and three touchdowns to help the Vikings beat New Orleans 29-19 on Monday night and spoil Adrian Peterson's first game with the Saints.

Stefon Diggs had seven receptions for 93 yards, two for scores, and Adam Thielen racked up 157 yards on nine catches as Bradford carved up a Saints defense that looked again like one of the worst in the league despite a major renovation. Rookie Dalvin Cook rushed for 127 yards in the formal takeover from Peterson.

Peterson was an afterthought once the Saints fell behind. Drew Brees was quiet, too, with 291 yards on 27-for-37 passing padded by the late push to catch up. Coby Fleener caught the only touchdown toss, after the 2-minute warning. Will Lutz made four field goals, three under 25 yards.

Brees and Bradford are both in the final year of their contracts, with the same agent, Tom Condon, who is sure to cash in on both clients. Brees has by far the better resume, nine seasons further into his career, but Bradford stole the show on this prime-time stage.

Behind mostly clean pockets created by a remade offensive line, Bradford completed 27 of 32 passes without a turnover. With three rookies and three free agents in the starting lineup, the Saints tried hard to better a defense that has held Brees and company back since the Super Bowl title eight years ago. The first performance left a lot to be desired, with Diggs and Thielen consistently finding favorable matchups underneath.

There were three unnecessary roughness calls in the first half by the Saints. Two of the personal fouls aided a drive that ended with one of three field goals by Kai Forbath, who missed one extra point. The other 15-yarder was on safety Kenny Vaccaro for head-hunting Diggs during an acrobatic catch in the closing seconds of the first half. Diggs came right back with another highlight-reel grab to give the Vikings a 16-6 lead at the break.

Cameron Jordan and A.J. Klein each had their hands on a tipped pass in the end zone that fluttered off Cook's hands, missing a critical opportunity to thwart that drive and keep the deficit at four points (see full recap).

Broncos hold off Chargers’ late rally with FG block
DENVER -- Shelby Harris got a hand on Younghoe Koo's 44-yard field goal attempt with a second left, and the Broncos began the Vance Joseph era with a 24-21 win over the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night.

Moments earlier, Koo had nailed the kick, but Joseph called a timeout to ice the kicker.

On the re-do, Harris -- who made the team because of a rash of injuries along the D-line -- sliced through and got his right hand on the kick.

It was reminiscent of last year's opener, when the Broncos escaped with a 21-20 win over the Carolina Panthers when Graham Gano missed a 50-yard field goal with 4 seconds left.

Denver took a 24-7 lead into the fourth quarter but had two turnovers that were converted into touchdowns, a missed field goal and a punt.

Before those fourth-quarter foibles, Trevor Siemian threw two TD passes to Bennie Fowler and ran for another score.

The Broncos held Philip Rivers to 115 yards passing through three quarters but let him engineer a comeback when Siemian threw an interception and Jamaal Charles fumbled on plays that were upheld despite video evidence that had the crowd of 76,324 convinced they should have been overturned (see full recap).

Norv Turner: Sam Bradford's 'vision as good as any QB I've ever coached'

Norv Turner: Sam Bradford's 'vision as good as any QB I've ever coached'

Vikings OC Norv Turner has been around a while. He's been an NFL coach for the last 31 years and has spent the last 26 as either a head coach or offensive coordinator. 

He's worked with quarterbacks in the "great" tier (Troy Aikman), "very good" tier (Philip Rivers) and "solid" tier (Alex Smith). 

And yet Turner recently said Sam Bradford's vision "is as good as any QB I've ever coached."

"I just think you get excited about a guy and you make that statement," Turner said, per the Vikings' official site. "I believe it’s true. That doesn’t take away from someone else and the way they play the game. Sam, he can anticipate. He sees what’s happening out in front of people. He can relate back to you what he sees and most of the time he’s pretty accurate.”

High praise for the former Eagles signal-caller, who brings a 5-0 Vikings team into his return to the Linc this Sunday.

Bradford has carried last season's late success into 2016. He leads the NFL with a 70.4 percent completion rate. He's thrown six TDs in four games and averaged 247.5 yards. Among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts, only Bradford and Chicago's Brian Hoyer have yet to throw an interception. 

"It's pretty remarkable," Turner said. "Everyone knows the story. It’s really a tribute to him. His ability to prepare, his experiences. I think his past experiences in the league help him in this situation. And then I think it’s a lot of people that have helped to contribute to his success, whether it be coaches or other players."

Turner has been especially impressed by Bradford's arm strength and ability to anticipate throws. The Vikings are missing Adrian Peterson and starting left tackle Matt Kalil, and yet Bradford has this offense humming more than Teddy Bridgewater did the last two years. Vikings fans thought their season was crumbling when Bridgewater tore up his knee right before Week 1. Turned out the Vikings may have gotten better.

"He’s very good at (throwing receivers open) because, as I’ve said, I think he sees the big picture awfully well," Turner said of Bradford. "Sometimes guys don’t have the ability to throw a guy open because they don’t know what’s happening somewhere else. They don’t see enough, a wide enough scope. So they’re afraid to get themselves in trouble throwing it to different spots."

Bradford hasn't been. He has some decent skill players in Stefon Diggs, Charles Johnson, Cordarrelle Patterson and tight end Kyle Rudolph, but he's also bringing the best out of them.

Bradford is under contract next season as well. That was an important factor in Minnesota's trade for him because the organization doesn't know how quickly Bridgewater will be able to return, or whether he'll even win the starting job back next summer. If Bradford keeps playing like this, perhaps he turns out to be the Vikings' QB of the future. And he's still just 28 years old.