The 21-year-old quarterback was efficient and effective, hitting on 19 of 30 passes for 317 yards, including a 52-yarder, for a 98.9 passer rating. He is only the second NFL quarterback in the last decade to throw for 300 yards and no interceptions in his first career start, and he is the only rookie in Vikings history to throw for more than 300 yards in his first start.
“He played lights-out, not only throwing the ball down the field but also with his legs, when we needed big plays with his legs,” said receiver Jarius Wright, who had a career-high eight catches for 132 yards, including the 52-yarder, with Bridgewater as the quarterback. “He played a great game and he showed poised with what he could be in the pocket.” Despite a big day, Bridgewater reflected about a missed pass to Wright that could have accounted for his first touchdown in the NFL.
Now the focus is on whether Bridgewater can play Thursday after suffering a sprained left ankle in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win. He did not practice Monday or Tuesday and declined to put a percentage on the probability he would be able to play against the Green Bay Packers, but he’s getting to know the training staff well.
“The training staff has been pushing me mentally and physically to overcome this,” he said.
So far, he hasn’t tested the ankle with his throwing, but he hopes to run on it Tuesday. Head coach Mike Zimmer said Tuesday will be mostly about “mental reps” for Bridgewater and he would find out more about Bridgewater’s availability after a “jog-through” on Wednesday before leaving for Lambeau Field.
Bridgewater doesn’t have any passing touchdowns yet, but he set up the offense for five touchdowns, including his 13-yard scramble for a touchdown that Zimmer called “pretty impressive.”
“Anytime you’re facing a scrambling quarterback, or the possibility of a running quarterback, you have to be mindful of your rush lanes,” Zimmer said.
That helped Bridgewater avoid being sacked at all on Sunday and he was hit only once behind the line of scrimmage.
“He’s too calm. He’s always calm under pressure,” receiver Cordarrelle Patterson said. “That’s how he was in college, I heard, and just watching him every play and just watching how calm he is under pressure is incredible.”
The last rookie quarterback to throw for 300 yards without an interception in his first start was Robert Griffin in 2012, and there weren’t many before that, either.
The only other quarterbacks with at least 300 passing yards and no interceptions in their first start were Eric Hipple (1981), Browning Nagle (1992), Jay Fiedler (2000) and Griffin.
Bridgewater was only the third Vikings quarterback to win his first start and he did it with a fourth-quarter comeback, leading the Vikings on a touchdown drive in their first possession of the fourth quarter after they had fallen behind 28-27, the only time in the game they didn’t have the lead.
It was also the Vikings’ first win at TCF Bank Stadium after two previous tries, and Bridgewater set a franchise record for highest passer rating by a rookie in his first start at 98.9.
Since the franchise started playing games in 1961, only seven rookies have started at quarterback – Fran Tarkenton in 1961, Ron VanderKelen in 1963, Tommy Kramer in 1977, Tarvaris Jackson in 2006, Joe Webb in 2010, Christian Ponder in 2011 and Bridgewater. Only VanderKelen, Webb and Bridgewater won their first starts.
Now it’s the follow-up that Bridgewater is concerned with. On a short week, he has already placed the Falcons game behind him and is concentrating on the Packers. The lights will be on for NFL Network, CBS and the national stage.
“It’ll be very exciting to be out there Thursday,” he said. “You talk about Lambeau Field, the history and the tradition behind that stadium, it’s going to be a great feeling to play in that facility with all the history that’s behind that.”