By the rookie numbers: Bridgewater vs. Ponder

Teddy Bridgewater’s rookie numbers aren’t much different than Christian Ponder’s, except in wins. Plus, get numerous league rankings between the Vikings and Panthers.

Vikings fans have been rallying around rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater much of the season. From the chants of, “Teddy! Teddy!” during the preseason as the No. 2 quarterback until now, there has been a solid belief that Bridgewater will be a vast improvement over Christian Ponder or Matt Cassel.

However, the rookie numbers from Bridgewater and Ponder aren’t all that different. Bridgewater has played in eight games, starting seven of them. Ponder played in 11 games, starting 10 as a rookie in 2011.

Ponder in 2011: 291 attempts, 158 completions, 54.3 percent completion percentage, 1,853 yards, 13 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a passer rating of 70.1. He also rushed 29 times for 219 yards.

Bridgewater to date in 2014: 262 attempts, 158 completions, 60.3 completion percentage, 1,689 yards, six touchdowns, seven interceptions and a passer rating of 75.7. He has also rushed 28 times for 129 yards and one touchdown.

In the big picture of things, there isn’t a huge difference. Ponder threw for more yards per pass and was more prone to throwing both touchdowns and interceptions. However, he was also a more effective scrambler.

As a passer, in his 10 starts, Ponder had two or more TD passes in five of those games. Bridgewater has one or no passing touchdowns in all but one game he has played.

Bridgewater completes more passes and is more efficient, as shown in his higher passer rating – not great by any stretch of the imagination, but an improvement.

Perhaps the biggest difference has come in the wins. Considering Bridgewater never had the luxury of turning around and handing the ball to Adrian Peterson, which was Ponder’s greatest strength as a play-action option to momentarily freeze defenders expecting Peterson to run the ball, Bridgewater’s performance is laying the groundwork much better than Ponder did as a rookie.

In his 10 starts, Ponder won two games – and in one of those, he was bailed out by Joe Webb coming off the bench and leading the Vikings to a come-from-behind victory. He lost eight of nine games he started and finished. In seven starts, Bridgewater has posted a 3-4 record. The last three of those losses have come by totals of one, eight and three points.

It may be splitting hairs to compare one rookie quarterback to another, but there was never the feeling during Ponder’s rookie year among the fan base (and, quietly, in the minds of quite a few of his offensive teammates) that he had the “It Factor” that can make an offense great.

He was a caretaker. Bridgewater isn’t giving off that vibe. He shows the flashes of something special. Unfortunately, those flashes are a little too few and far between to give off an aura of confidence. But three years after Ponder limped through the end of his rookie season, the Vikings are looking to Bridgewater to be the man who leads the offense moving forward.

The numbers may not support Bridgewater being anything other than a pedestrian rookie quarterback prone to mistakes, but he is different from Ponder in the only stat the counts – he’s won more games already and has four more to go this year to start his road as the Vikings starter.


  • The Vikings have the 30th-ranked offense in the league (13th rushing, 29th passing) and the 12th-ranked defense (21st rushing, 7th passing).

  • The only teams with a worse-rated offense than the Vikings are the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders.

  • Carolina has the 22nd-ranked offense (25th rushing, 19th passing) and the 25th-ranked defense (22nd rushing, 26th passing).

  • Of the 17 offensive team categories ranked by the NFL, the Vikings are 27th or worse in eight of them.

  • Of the 17 defensive team categories ranked, Carolina is 26th or worse in 10 of them.

  • Minnesota is averaging 309 yards of offense a game (193 passing, 116 rushing). Carolina is averaging 327 yards a game (231 passing, 96 rushing).

  • Defensively, the Vikings are allowing 343 yards a game (223 passing, 119 rushing). The Panthers are allowing 374 yards a game (255 passing, 109 rushing).

  • The Vikings are tied for 16th in giveaway/takeaway ratio at even (14 giveaways, 14 takeaways). The Panthers are tied for 20th at minus-2 (19 giveaways, 17 takeaways).

  • Minnesota is 15th in red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 14 of 26 possessions (53.8 percent). Carolina is 27th at 46.7 percent (14 touchdowns on 30 possessions).

  • Only Oakland (19) and Jacksonville (23) have fewer red zone possessions than the Vikings.

  • Defensively, Carolina and Minnesota are tied for 28th at 66.7 percent. The Vikings have allowed touchdowns on 20 of 30 opponent possessions, while Carolina has allowed TDs on 24 of 36 red zone chances.

  • The Panthers are 20th in third-down conversion percentage, making good on 61 of 152 chances (40.1 percent). The Vikings are 27th at 35.3 percent (53 of 150). The league average is 40.9 percent.

  • Defensively, the Vikings are 17th, allowing conversions on 60 of 145 chances (41.4 percent). The Panthers are 27th at 44.8 percent (65 of 145).

  • Minnesota is third in average starting position after kickoffs – the 24.5-yard line – almost three yards better than the league average of the 21.6-yard line. Carolina is 10th with an average starting position of the 22.1-yard line.

  • Defensively, the Vikings are ninth in opponent starting position after kickoffs at the 20.4-yard line. Carolina is 17th with average starting position allowed of the 21.7-yard line.

  • Both Cam Newton and Teddy Bridgewater have one 300-yard passing game this season.

  • The Vikings have allowed just one 300-yard passer this season. Carolina has allowed three.

  • The Vikings have just one 100-yard receiver this season (Jarius Wright vs. Atlanta). The Panthers have four – two each from rookie Kelvin Benjamin and tight end Greg Olsen.

  • The Vikings have allowed three 100-yard receivers. Carolina has allowed six.

  • The Vikings have three 100-yard rushing games – two from Jerick McKinnon and one from Cordarrelle Patterson. The only 100-yard rushing game by the Panthers is from Cam Newton.

  • Newton is 18th in attempts (333), 21st in completions (195), 29th in completion percentage (58.6 percent), 18th in yards (2,392), tied for 20th in touchdown passes (12), 25th in touchdown percentage (3.6), tied for 23rd in interceptions (10), 25th in interception percentage (3.0) and 27th in passer rating (80.3).

  • Bridgewater is ranked 25th in pass attempts (262), 26th in completions (158), 25th in completion percentage (60.3 percent), 28th in yards (1,689), 30th in average gain per pass (6.45 yards), 34th in touchdowns (6), 32nd in TD percentage (2.3), 11th in interceptions (7), 20th in interception percentage (2.7) and 30th in passer rating (75.7).

  • Newton is fifth in fourth-quarter passer rating at 113.1. Bridgewater is 20th with a rating 87.6.

  • Bridgewater is 18th in third-down passer rating at 85.2. Newton is 23rd with a rating of 74.4.

  • McKinnon is 18th in the league in rushing with 538 yards, but will likely drop given that he isn’t expected to play today. Jonathan Stewart leads the Panthers with just 323 yards, which ranks him 47th, just one spot ahead of Newton.

  • Olsen leads the Panthers with 56 receptions, which ties him for 21st place. Benjamin is tied for 27th with 52 receptions. Greg Jennings leads the Vikings with 40 receptions, which ties him for 61st place.

  • Benjamin leads Carolina with 768 receiving yards, which places him 18th in the league, followed by Olsen, who has 719 yards, which ties him for 19th place. Jennings leads the Vikings with 501 yards, which ties him for 56th place.

  • Benjamin is tied for 16th in scoring among non-kickers with 48 points (eight touchdowns). Matt Asiata leads the Vikings with 44 points (six touchdowns and one two-point conversion).

  • Blair Walsh is 19th in scoring among kickers with 76 points. Carolina’s Graham Gano is tied for 20th with 75 points.

  • Gano is tied for fifth in touchbacks with 39. Walsh is tied for 10th place with 35 touchbacks.

  • Benjamin is 33rd in total yards from scrimmage with 768 yards (all receiving). Olsen is 37th with 719 yards (all receiving). McKinnon leads the Vikings with 673 yards (538 rushing, 135 receiving), which ranks him 47th.

  • Carolina punter Brad Nortman is 13th in punting average at 46.1 yards. Jeff Locke is 25th with a 44.2-yard average.

  • Nortman is 22nd in net punting average at 38.7 yards. Locke is 24th at 38.5 yards.

  • Only 17 kick returners have enough returns to qualify for the league leaderboard. Patterson is eighth among them with an average of 25.4 yards. Carolina is one of the 15 teams that haven’t had enough returns to put up a qualifier.

  • Harrison Smith is tied for fourth in interceptions with four. Carolina’s Roman Harper is tied for ninth with three picks.

  • Everson Griffen is tied for ninth with nine sacks. No Panther has more than five sacks.

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