Teddy Bridgewater continued his improved play of late, capping off a strong four-game stretch. But most of the rest of the stats showed why the Vikings lost.
With a game that saw so many bad things happen in the second half, what may have been lost on many fans was just how good a day Teddy Bridgewater
Since the Vikings lost to Green Bay on Nov. 23, over the last month Bridgewater has become a much-improved and effective passer – living up to the hype that had him being speculated as a contender to be the first overall pick in the 2014 draft, not the last pick of the first round.
On Sunday, Bridgewater completed 19 of 26 passes for 259 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 114.1 in his return to trip to his native Miami. It marked the ninth straight game in which he has thrown at least one touchdown. Over his last five games, he has thrown two touchdown passes in four of them.
“I don’t really care much about his native Florida. All I cared about is how he played and I thought he played well,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “He had one interception and it was bad luck, a tipped ball. Most of the time I thought he did a good job scrambling out of the pocket. I thought he made some great throws. I thought he played with composure. I thought he continued to do all of those things.”
But perhaps the most important numbers have been his efficiency with the ball. In his first eight games, Bridgewater hadn’t completed more than 65 percent of his passes in any game. Over the last four games, he has completed 84 of 115 passes – an amazing 73 percent – and has completed more than 70 percent of his passes in all four games. In the last four games, he has 1,021 yards passing, seven touchdowns and four interceptions.
That efficiency has shown up in his passer rating, which, over that four-game span, has been 120.7, 117.7, 84.9 and 114.1. In total over the last four games, his rating is 105.7.
The stat on quarterbacks that matters most to coaches is wins and losses, and Bridgewater has proved to be ahead of that curve as well. Entering play Sunday, Bridgewater had a 5-5 record as a starter. All other rookie quarterbacks had a combined record of 5-28.
On a day where the Vikings found ways to lose rather than win, there isn’t a whole lot for them to be happy or satisfied with from Sunday’s performance. But one thing that appears clear is that Bridgewater is elevating his game as he gains more experience and it’s starting to show in the numbers – and eventually should start showing up in the win column as well.
GAME DAY NOTES
Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill was throwing the ball all day long. In the first half, he completed 16 of 24 passes for 160 yards with one touchdown and one interception. In the second half, he threw 23 passes but completed 19 of them for 236 yards and three TDs – finishing the game with 396 yards, four touchdowns and a passer rating of 118.8.
Harrison Smith came into Sunday’s game tied for fifth in the league in interceptions with four. He got his fifth Sunday on an incredibly athletic play in which he came on a blitz. When Tannehill tried to loft a screen over his head, Smith batted the ball it to himself and nearly brought it back for a touchdown.
Matt Asiata had two more rushing touchdowns Sunday, giving him nine for the season.
Chase Ford appeared to get robbed of a touchdown that proved to be important in the big scheme of things. Ford caught a sideline pass that replay seemed to show him keeping his feet in bounds by dragging his right foot along the sideline and getting the ball over the pylon. But when it was reviewed, the call from the field stood as a completed pass in which he stepped out of bounds before reaching the end zone. The number of reversals of calls from the field has dropped to 33 percent from 45 percent reversals last year. With plays like the one on Ford, it’s no wonder coaches are leery of throwing a challenge flag, but all touchdowns are automatically reviewed in the booth – which made the non-score even more maddening. The Vikings would settle for a field goal that gave them a 17-7 halftime lead instead of 21-7.
Miami won the game on a safety – the Dolphins’ fifth blocked kick of the year. They have blocked three punts this season and two field goals.
Sunday was the second straight game the Vikings have lost after taking a 14-0 lead.
Thanks to a fumbled kick return by Miami’s Jarvis Landry, the Vikings scored 15 points in 11 seconds of game time, going from a 28-20 deficit to a 35-28 lead.
The Vikings got nearly everyone involved offensively. Bridgewater completed passes to nine different receivers and five different players had rushing attempts.
Chad Greenway, whose father lost his two-year battle with leukemia over the weekend, aggravated his knee injury and was on the sideline much of the second half.
Robert Blanton returned to the lineup and led the team with 11 tackles, including nine solo tackles.
Miami converted a whopping 36 first downs Sunday, including six by penalty.
Neither team could stop the other consistently on third down. The Vikings converted 7 of 12 third-down opportunities (58 percent), while Miami converted 9 of 13 (69 percent).
Miami rolled up 493 yards of offense against the Vikings – 216 in the first half and 277 in the second half.
The Dolphins ran 77 plays against the Vikings defense, while Minnesota managed just 58 plays.
The teams combined for 15 penalties – eight by the Vikings and seven by Miami.
The Vikings had some uncharacteristic penalties that were the result of being goaded by the Dolphins and getting caught retaliating. Sharrif Floyd appeared to throw a punch that could have got him ejected and Gerald Hodges was called for unnecessary roughness for pushing Jarvis Landry after Landry caught the ball and said something to Hodges.
Rhett Ellison had a career-long 40-yard reception.
The two teams combined to score five touchdowns in the fourth quarter and scored points in just about every way possible, including touchdowns, a two-point conversion and a safety.
In the first half, Tannehill drove the Dolphins on a 12-play, 92-yard drive to get their first points of the game.
The game time temperature was 80 degrees in Miami, but cooled off as the game went on when clouds rolled in.
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