The “Teddy! Teddy! Teddy!” chorus that came from the crowd on Sunday was for encouragement, not excitement.
Bridgewater’s second NFL start was a sharp drop-off from his first, as the Vikings were overwhelmed by Detroit’s league-leading defense in a 17-3 defeat by the Lions.
“You’re not just going to go out there and be perfect. There’s some throws that you’re not going to be able to control and there will be things that happen throughout the course of a game that you won’t be able to control,” Bridgewater said.
“But at the same time, for me, it was an eye-opener. After my performance against Atlanta, I believe the expectation level is high. But I have a high expectation level for myself also.” Bridgewater passed for 317 yards in three quarters on Sept. 28 when the Vikings beat the Falcons 41-28. His sprained left ankle forced him out of the end of that game and kept him out last week at Green Bay while the Vikings were blown out 42-10.
The natural assumption was that, with Bridgewater back, the offense would again be productive despite the difficult opponent. But it never got going.
“We’re all pointing fingers at ourselves. We’ve just got to do better, man, as a unit. The fans don’t like seeing that. That’s just poor effort from us. Hopefully next week we just get better,” wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson said.
Bridgewater completed better than 62 percent of his passes, but he threw three interceptions, albeit two that came from tipped balls.
“I believe, with all my heart, that Teddy Bridgewater is going to be the franchise quarterback here for a long, long time. I believe that the team believes that, too,” coach Mike Zimmer said.
“Guys in the organization, the players, everybody believes this guy will be the future and a bright future for this organization. We have to make sure we continue to help him to be successful: playing, coaching, whatever it is.”
The Vikings (2-4) play at Buffalo this week. Much of the time until then will be figuring out how to give Bridgewater more time to throw. Sacked eight times by the Lions, he simply had nowhere to go.
Zimmer said he’s “not opposed” to changes on the offensive line, a group he said he anticipated would be a team strength entering the season.
Left tackle Matt Kalil has allowed the most of the 22 sacks surrendered by the Vikings, second-most in the NFL, but on Sunday the pressure came from everywhere.
“The guys overall are not bad football players. They’re just not playing real good right now,” Zimmer said.
None of the front five were in the locker room on Monday while it was open to reporters, but wide receivers Greg Jennings and Jarius Wright and fullback Jerome Felton were among the players who refused to blame the problems on the line. Bridgewater said after the game he could run through his reads and get rid of the ball faster.
“I don’t expect for the offensive line to point the finger at us. I’m not going to point the finger at them. Because protection is across the board. Run blocking is across the board. Making things happen, making plays, is across the board,” Jennings said.
Zimmer was angry after the game about trends of a lack of discipline and threatened to fine players “to the max” if more guys arrived late to meetings or appointments, as had happened a few times last week. He softened on Monday: “That was probably Zimmer being Zimmer. I was not in the best frame of mind.”
Still, the message was clear. Felton, who acknowledged he was “a little nervous” entering the team meeting on Monday, said Zimmer promised to cut playing time for continued mistakes on the field.
“I want them to understand that it’s not OK to lose, that we have to change the mentality and the mindset of this,” Zimmer said.