After being sacked by the Detroit Lions eight times on Sunday, Bridgewater said “the majority” of those were caused by him not getting the ball out of his gloved right hand quickly enough.
“We could have played better. We all could have played better, especially starting with me,” Bridgewater said. “The passing game, I have to be much quicker in my decision-making, get the ball out of my hands faster and just to get the ball to my playmakers and allow them to make plays.”
A film review showed that in about half the sacks he took, he felt first contact 3 seconds after the snap or sooner. That will make it nearly impossible for receivers to break loose downfield and the quarterback to have enough time to find them and get rid of the ball in good rhythm.
There were other times, however, where Bridgewater held onto the ball for more than 4 seconds. That, in turn, will make it difficult for offensive linemen to hold their blocks much longer, especially against a defensive line as talented and disruptive as the Detroit Lions possess.
Bridgewater said offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s main message to him this week is to get rid of the ball sooner.
“He mentioned in the Atlanta game how I was just able to make decisions fast, get the ball out of my hands and allow guys to make plays,” Bridgewater said. “That’s going to be the message going into the game in Buffalo. We know that they have a pretty good front seven also.” In Week 4 against Atlanta – Bridgewater’s first start since taking over for the injured Matt Cassel – Bridgewater completed 63.3 percent of his 30 passes for 317 yards and avoided an interception and any sacks. Against Detroit, he completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 188 yards, threw three interceptions and took eight sacks.
He said there are plays designed to get the ball out of his hand quicker, but he also said he didn’t know if there was an “exact time” he should generally aim to have the ball released.
“You have to have that mental clock in your head. It’s usually whenever you take that fifth step, the ball should be gone,” he said. “You should be allowed to take at least one hitch to throw to a wide receiver. If you’re in your second hitch, moving up in the pocket, that means you should get the ball out of your hands to the checkdown. For me, I can count numerous times when I was more than two hitches or more than one hitch and holding onto the ball. I’m just going to continue to work better and get better in that field.”
The first four sacks, which all came in the first half of Sunday’s game, all came on third down, and three of the four sacks he took in the second half came in the final four minutes of the game when the Lions knew he would be forced to throw when trailing by 14 points.
“There were multiple times on Sunday when I found myself holding onto the ball, where a guy was running wide open down the field or running across the field wide open,” Bridgewater said.
Head coach Mike Zimmer also stressed that receivers weren’t always getting separation quickly enough.
Both Zimmer and Bridgewater said they have no fear of him being “shell-shocked” by taking so many hits as a rookie. After all, while the eight sacks should be unacceptable, he didn’t take any sacks against Atlanta in his first start and had two against New Orleans, when he played three quarters of the game.
“I know Teddy and I’m not worried about him. He’s got a very tough mindset,” Zimmer said when asked about the potential for Bridgewater to lose confidence, a la David Carr taking 76 sacks as a rookie in 2002. “(Teddy) is a great competitor. He’s got mobility in the pocket so he can move. I’m not very concerned about that. And we’re going to block better.”
On Monday, Zimmer said he believes Bridgewater will be the Vikings’ franchise quarterback for a long time. He reiterated that on Wednesday.
“He didn’t play nearly as well last week, but we’ve got to help him along. This kid has a chance to be an extremely good quarterback,” Zimmer said. “I know a lot of people say that about young quarterbacks, but I just have a feeling – everything I’ve ever watched him do leads me to believe he’s a big-time guy. I’ve been around some pretty good ones.”
Said Bridgewater: “That’s the good thing about the NFL is it’s a long season, so each week you get a new opportunity to go out there and show what you’re worth.”