The calm and poise of Teddy Bridgewater washed away on Monday night, even if the stats don’t tell the whole story.
In his first game of his second NFL season, the Minnesota Vikings quarterback completed 23 of 32 passes for 231 yards and an interception. But the calm that usually accompanies Bridgewater was missing.
“I think I was definitely too excited,” he admitted Wednesday. “It was the first game of the season and you want to get out there and show all of your hard work from training camp, (organized team activies) and the preseason. I think I just missed a couple throws, easy throws that I make in practice 9 out of 10 times and it played a huge role in the outcome.”
Bridgewater misfired on his first three throws, despite the Vikings being in scoring position at the San Francisco 49ers’ 26-yard line following a blocked punt and return by Marcus Sherels to that point. But three straight incompletions led to a quick field goal attempt that went wide right from 44 yards.
Bridgewater agreed with the assessment that head coach Mike Zimmer offered, that the quarterback was uncharacteristically in a hurry.
“I could say that I was probably sped up a little, but that’s the mindset playing quarterback here. You want to be quick, you want to be fast but not in a hurry. I think Monday night I was in a hurry,” he said. “I’m going to get out here today at practice and try to eliminate those mistakes.”
Zimmer said Bridgewater usually has composure but didn’t show that Monday night. He missed throws to open receivers and didn’t throw the ball at other opportunities.
The second-year quarterback couldn’t argue with that assessment and wasn’t surprised that Zimmer would say it publicly.
“I wasn’t surprised at all and that’s what I love, tough coaching,” Bridgewater said. “I try to be my worst critic and to hear it from the head guy, it tells you, ‘Hey, you need to step up your game.’ Hearing that just put that chip on my shoulder and I have to continue to just get better and it just showed me and it showed us as a team we’re nowhere as good as we are. We got outplayed, San Fran out-executed us and it showed Monday night.”
Now the question is how Bridgewater will respond. The task doesn’t get much easier on Sunday hosting the Detroit Lions.
In his third game last year in the lineup, Bridgewater faced the Lions and had the worst passer rating (41.3) of his young career. He completed 62.2 percent of his passes, but threw for only 188 yards, no touchdowns, three interceptions and was sacked a career-high eight times.
He said numerous times after that game that he had to get the ball out of his hand quicker. Entering Sunday’s game, he was looking to slow himself down, at least as far as his approach.
“I just take it as a learning experience. I tell myself, ‘Hey, I can’t do the same thing that I did last week or we’re going to be sitting at home 0-2,’” he said. “So I just have to continue to play within myself, play within the system, trust what the coaching staff is telling me and just get the ball to my playmakers and allow those guys to make plays.”
At different times during his press conference Wednesday he said he felt poised, but that he was rushing it. At times he was trying to do too much.
He has to quit relying on himself so much and trust his playmakers, he said.
“That’s something Coach Zimmer said after the game. There are 10 other guys on the football field with me. I don’t have to do it all by myself,” he said. “I just have to trust those guys, that they know what they’re doing and they put their trust in me.”
Coming off a Monday night game, the Vikings have a shorter week to prepare for the Lions, but that’s a good thing, Bridgewater said, considering how badly things went in San Francisco.
Bridgewater said he “can’t wait” until Sunday. It will give him an opportunity to put a “clunker,” as Zimmer put it, in the past.
“I think I was just overdoing it,” Bridgewater said. “Overdoing the playing-fast part and it just showed.”