Bridgewater’s red zone accuracy best in NFL

Teddy Bridgewater had all-around solid rookie stats, but he was at the top of the league in red zone completion percentage.

When you’re looking for a stat that helps separate one player from another, you’re always looking for that one statistic that raises eyebrows.

For Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, that smoking gun has been his efficiency in the red zone. Nobody completed a higher percentage of red zone passes inside an opponent’s 20-yard line than Teddy Bridgewater.

Not Peyton Manning. Not Tom Brady. Not Aaron Rodgers. Nobody.

Granted, Bridgewater had a small sample size to work with because he wasn’t the opening day starter, the Vikings took their time in letting him take chances in scoring position and the offense wasn’t exactly a juggernaut.

But with the opportunities he had, nobody was more effective than Bridgewater in terms of completing passes in the red zone. He attempted just 26 – only one-fourth of league leader Peyton Manning, but he completed 19 of them for 162 yards with nine touchdowns and one interception.

That comes out to a completion percentage of 73.1 percent – tops in the NFL among quarterbacks with 25 or more pass attempts. Manning completed 65.1 percent (71 of 109). Rodgers completed just 53.3 percent (56 of 105). Andrew Luck completed 57.0 percent (49 of 86). Drew Brees completed 65.1 percent (56 of 86). Brady completed 55.7 percent (44 of 79). Eli Manning completed just 49.0 percent of his passes (51 of 104).

When compared to the other quarterbacks in the NFC North, Bridgewater held a distinct edge. Along with Rodgers’ pedestrian red zone numbers, Matthew Stafford completed 54.3 percent of his red zone passes (44 of 81) and Jay Cutler completed just 50.6 percent of his red zone passes (40 of 79).

Perhaps the most telling stat was Bridgewater’s comparison to other young quarterbacks. Only three had enough attempts to qualify, but Bridgewater’s completion percentage dwarfed both of the other two. Derek Carr held up his end of the bargain in Oakland, completing 60.4 percent of his red zone passes (32 of 53). But Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles was truly brutal, completing just 15 of 41 passes – just 36.6 percent (15 of 41). Two other young quarterbacks viewed as franchise types, at least in the recent past – Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III – both completed less than 50 percent of their red zone throws in 2014.

While skeptics can claim that Bridgewater’s completion numbers may be inflated by the fact he had so few attempts, his lack of pass attempts shouldn’t be held against him. It’s pretty much a given that a quarterback improves his decision-making with the more opportunities he gets. His second 25 passes are likely to be better than his first 25 because he has learned to spot things defenders do in order to disguise their intentions.

Whether you think this stat is significant, you can be sure the Vikings coaching staff does and the teams they play against have similarly taken notice. Nobody has completed more passes when it counts the most for an offense and when defenses are desperately looking for a stop or a turnover that will either keep an offense off the board or settling for a field goal.

Bridgewater had solid numbers for a part-time starting rookie quarterback, but in one category in which he had enough of a body of work to compare to all other QBs – a category in which it can be argued is the most important – nobody was more efficient and productive than Bridgewater.

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