Bridgewater working on quickness, confidence

Teddy Bridgewater is trying to get the ball out of his hands and trust himself more, but the rookie has struggled against some of the top defenses in the league.

Teddy Bridgewater continues to focus on the areas of his game he says need improvement. There are several.

As a team, the Vikings have the lowest passer rating in the league at 62.7 and Bridgewater’s last two games haven’t help. He had a 56.1 rating Sunday at Buffalo and a 41.3 rating the previous week against the Detroit Lions.

Sacks were an issue in both of those games. He took eight sacks against the Lions and another five against the Bills. That might be contributing to Bridgewater overthinking things, and the rookie quarterback admitted to not always trusting himself as much as he should.

“There were some plays where I may have just held the ball too long, could have got the ball out faster, thinking too much at the line of scrimmage instead of just playing the play as it plays out,” he said.

“Sometimes it’s hard because I’m a young guy and I try to be perfect in every aspect, but I have to realize that I don’t have to do it by myself.”

The Vikings have the second-lowest passer rating in the first half of games (56.8), better than only their opponent on Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (50.1). But the Bucs’ quarterbacks have been improving in the second half of games at almost a shocking rate, to 100.1, while the Vikings’ pass rating has remained low there, at 69.0.

Overall, Bridgewater is below that total with a rating of 67.4 for the season, completing 69 of 113 passes for 812 yards (62 percent) but throwing just one touchdown pass and five interceptions while taking 15 sacks.

For the Vikings, taking sacks has been a big issue. They have the second-most sacks in the league with 27, better than only the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have 29.

Bridgewater has been under pressure 39 percent of his dropbacks, ninth-highest in the league, according to Pro Football Focus, and completed 43.3 percent of his passes in those scenarios. He also hasn’t been helped by his receivers, who have dropped 16 passes, second-most in the NFL.

Adding to Bridgewater’s challenge this week is that he will be playing the road again this Sunday, and the Vikings are 0-6 at Raymond James Stadium and have lost their last six games against the Bucs overall.

The last time the Vikings played the Bucs, they lost 36-17 at the Metrodome on Oct. 25, 2012, when former Bucs and Vikings quarterback Josh Freeman threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns against the Vikings.

Last week was Bridgewater’s first start on the road.
“It was difficult dealing with the crowd noise, but at some point you have to settle down and just play football. We have a great group of guys here who were able to assist me in every area that I needed help in on Sunday. I’m pretty sure we’re going to do much better this week,” he said.

“… You just have to just take the crowd out of the game. Last week we came out, we received the football first. That’s a situation where we want to just go down the field and score right away to take the crowd out of the game early. Our defense played great. As long as you’re playing great defense and executing on offense, I’m pretty sure you can take the crowd out of the game.”

The Vikings put Freeman in for one disastrous start last year before pulling the plug on that experiment and selecting Bridgewater at the end of the first round in May’s draft. But so far the Vikings have the worst passing offense in the league when measured by yards.

Bridgewater is the only qualifying quarterback in the NFC to have thrown only one touchdown pass. Despite playing in only 51 percent of the Vikings’ offensive snaps this year, he is tied for eighth in the league with 15 sacks and his five interceptions are tied for 12th.

The interceptions have also been coming too often. Bridgewater is tied for second-worst in the league with 4.4 percent of his passes being intercepted. Fellow rookie Blake Bortles is worst at 5.7 percent.

Although he missed Cordarrelle Patterson on a deep ball on Sunday, saying he simply overthrew it, Bridgewater has been relatively decent on that category, connecting on eight passes that went 25 yards or more. That the number is just under half the big plays produced by the league leaders in that category, but since Bridgewater has only played in about half of his team’s snaps, it’s a decent number.

“I think I’ve been doing a good job of getting the ball down the field. I know that I can do much better, but at the same time we’re not going to continue to try to test protection or anything,” he said. “We call plays designed for me to get the ball out of my hands quickly and allow our guys to make plays on the outside. That’s what those guys are here for, to make plays for this team and that’s what we expect from those guys.”

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