Bradford sets NFL record, as Vikings finish strong vs. Bears
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) For all that went wrong for the Minnesota Vikings after their 5-0 start, they were able to crawl out from underneath the wreckage of the 2016 season with a quarterback they can count on in the coming year.
The Chicago Bears don't have such an assurance.
Sam Bradford wrapped up his first season in Minnesota with three first-half touchdown passes and an NFL single-season record for completion percentage, leading the Vikings to a 38-10 victory over the Bears on Sunday to finish on a winning note after tumbling out of contention over the past two months.
Bradford went 25 for 33 for 250 yards and one interception, finishing with a 71.6 percent completion rate to set the mark and beat the 71.2 rate posted by Drew Brees for New Orleans in 2011.
''You always believe that you can go out and play at a high level. Obviously this year, just in terms of the trade and showing up week one, it's been crazy,'' Bradford said. ''But it's been fun, and I've enjoyed being a part of this locker room.''
He also established career bests for yards (3,877), interception percentage (0.9) and passer rating (99.3) after his hasty acquisition following the serious left knee injury that has left Teddy Bridgewater's status in question for 2017.
Bradford's performance behind a depleted offensive line that saw 12 players see action among the five spots over the season and eight different starting lineup combinations was a promising development for the Vikings (8-8) amid all the other trouble.
''He made it easy on us receivers,'' said Adam Thielen, who finished with a team-high 967 yards.
Kyle Rudolph caught 11 passes for 117 yards and a score, setting the franchise season record for tight ends with 83 receptions. The Vikings padded their statistics against a Bears team that looked more than ready for winter vacations in a meaningless game spiced up a bit by protesters who hung from a roof truss during most of the afternoon.
Everson Griffen returned one of Chicago's three lost fumbles for a touchdown, one by Matt Barkley after a shared sack by Danielle Hunter and Linval Joseph in the fourth quarter.
Barkley was picked off twice to total 10 interceptions over the past three games. Bradford was picked off just five times in 15 games.
''I'm not going to play fearful, but I definitely want to play smarter and make better decisions,'' Barkley said.
Barkley was a fill-in who started the season on the practice squad, thrust into duty by injuries to Jay Cutler and Brian Hoyer. Cutler's future with Chicago is as murky as ever after being limited to five games in 2016.
The Bears (3-13) wound up with their most losses since 1969, and coach John Fox fell to 9-23 in two years. He said he hasn't asked for, or received any, assurance from the front office that he'll return.
''You start something, you want to finish it,'' Fox said.
Here are some other key angles that emerged from the game, entering the offseason:
BEAR JORDAN: Jordan Howard flourished as a rookie, breaking Matt Forte's franchise record for a first-year player with 1,313 yards for the season. He rushed for 135 yards on 23 carries against the Vikings, his sixth 100-yard game after starting behind Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey on the depth chart.
''My teammates did a great job opening up the holes and the coaches getting us in the right plays,'' said Howard, who was a fifth-round draft pick out of Indiana. ''I just tried to make the most out of my opportunity.''
FINALLY, ROOM TO RUN: Jerick McKinnon rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts and caught three passes for 21 yards and a score. As a team, the Vikings totaled 124 yards rushing, their season high. They finished last in the NFL with 3.2 yards per carry. Adrian Peterson, who was limited to three games and 72 yards because of a right knee injury, watched on the sideline in sweats for perhaps the final time in Vikings purple.
REACHING THE END: Linebacker Chad Greenway wasn't ready to declare his retirement after 11 years in the league, all with the Vikings, but his actions and words suggested he's reached the end of his career .
''I enjoyed every minute of it,'' Greenway said.
CATCHING ON: Barkley's best moment actually came when he caught a 2-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Cameron Meredith on a trick play late in the second quarter. Barkley slid out of the shotgun formation and ran an out pattern. The snap went directly to running back Jeremy Langford, who pitched the ball back to Meredith on a reverse. Barkley joined quarterbacks Russell Wilson of Seattle and Blake Bortles of Jacksonville in catching passes for scores this season.
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