Turner: Bridgewater ‘incredible’ vs. Lions

While Teddy Bridgewater has received some criticism for two critical interceptions on Sunday, his offensive coordinator was adamant that Bridgewater’s play was “pretty incredible” and said “I don’t see him having limits, limitations.” The rookie’s play of late gives credence to Turner’s big defense of him Thursday.

Unprompted, Norv Turner rushed hard to the defense of rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, even if no defense was really needed.

Turner, the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator, felt Bridgewater was being criticized too harshly for throwing two costly interceptions Sunday against the NFL’s second-ranked defense.

The Lions scored 10 points off those interceptions in a 16-14 win over the Vikings, but Bridgewater still completed 31 of 41 passes for 315 yards and a touchdown with an 84.9 passer rating.

“It’s pretty incredible to me what he’s done and how he’s handled it, the things he’s gotten done. And what he’s really done is made everyone around him better and that’s a quality that you’re looking for,” Turner said of his rookie quarterback. “Teddy could be playing 10 years from now and have two interceptions in a game like he did last week. Obviously (Aaron) Rodgers had two in Buffalo against a pretty good defense we had our issues with earlier in the year, too. I think (Andrew) Luck threw an interception for a touchdown in the first quarter. Those things happen because that’s football, and you try to eliminate those.”

That statement came as part of an unprompted opening to Turner’s Thursday press conference that lasted more than 500 words without a single question being asked.

Turner said he wasn’t sure what the qualifications are of those who criticized Bridgewater for throwing those interceptions, but the offensive coordinator knows he put plenty of pressure on Bridgewater’s shoulders by calling 48 pass plays against one of the best defenses in the league. In addition to the 41 attempts Bridgewater had, he was sacked four times and ran the ball three times for 30 yards.

According to Pro Football Focus, it was the fifth-highest completion percentage for an NFL quarterback this season who threw at least 40 passes in the game. And, according to ESPN, it was the highest completion percentage in a game for a rookie quarterback with at least 40 attempts in NFL history.

Turner said he would prefer not to put Bridgewater in a position of throwing the ball 40-plus times in a game, especially against a strong defensive team like the Lions, but the offensive coordinator felt that gave the Vikings the best chance to win with the personnel limitations on offense.

“That’s asking a lot of a young guy and we’re asking him to carry this group, which I’ve never had to do that with a young guy,” Turner said. “When I had (Troy) Aikman in his third year, he had Emmitt Smith, who led the league in rushing. When I had Alex Smith in his second year, he had Frank Gore, who ran for 1,700 yards. And when I had Philip Rivers in his second year starting, I think it was his fourth year in the league, he had LaDainian Tomlinson, who led the league in rushing. So we’ve kind of had an interesting group and the people we’ve played on offense has been wide-ranging. To do the things he’s done, it just tells you something about the person he is, the type of player he is and the thing that excites me is he can make any throw you need to make.”

Against the Lions, who have one of the best defensive lines in the league, the Vikings were short-handed at numerous positions. They were down three of their starting offensive linemen – Phil Loadholt and Brandon Fusco are out of the season with injuries and Charlie Johnson was out on Sunday with an ankle injury. They have been without Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson since Week 1 because of his legal issues and ensuring suspension. They have had a rotation of starting tight ends because of Kyle Rudolph’s six-game absence following sports hernia surgery, along with the demotion of 2013 first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson to a backup receiver.

For the season, Bridgewater has completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, taking 32 sacks, and has a passer rating for 82.7.

In the past three games, Bridgewater’s completion percentage has been above 70, including a career-high 75.6 percent against the Lions. He has a chance to crack the top three in NFL history for a rookie. Ben Roethlisberger (2004) holds the rookie completion-percentage record at 66.44, following by Robert Griffin III (2012) at 65.66 and Russell Wilson (2012) at 64.12.

“(Bridgewater) does it with people around him, he does it with people hitting him, he does it when he has to slide in the pocket,” Turner said. “He knows how to play football and that’s the starting point of the quarterback position and he’s got the intangibles you need. And he’s going to continue to get better and better.”

Bridgewater continues to grow mentally. Turner said about 40 plays on Sunday were called by Bridgewater at the line of scrimmage.

The rookie turned 22 years old on Nov. 11 and Turner said he will only get stronger physically in the next four years.

“That part of it I think can be outstanding. To me, he has the intangibles of the guys I’ve spoke of,” Turner said. “I think at some point you can get to this good and then a lot of it after that, if you’re talking about being one of the best, it’s making sure he has the type of people around him that you rely on. Any quarterback could tell you, anybody who’s played, having those good people around you – a good offensive line, running game, receivers, those things – they obviously make you better, and then you have the ability to make them better. But I don’t see him having limits, limitations.”

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