Losses leave a stink.
That’s just a way of life. On Mondays after Vikings victories, the workplace seems happier. People discuss the game – at times to the point of significant loss in work production that day.
When they lose? Not so much. Happy banter is replaced by mutually silent neck-snap head nods in the hallway. Production may not be up on those days, but the pain is more internalized.
Minnesota Nice means you keep it to yourself … unless it’s brutal.
Sunday’s 23-20 loss to the Broncos could have been brutal. In many ways, it should have been brutal.
Teddy Bridgewater took a beating. On his first six snaps, he got to meet T.J. Ward and DeMarcus Ware up close and personal – way too personal.
With six minutes left in the first half, Bridgewater saw his team 13 points down with a running game that was doing nothing. Adrian Peterson had carried eight times for 21 yards and Denver’s defensive game plan was simple: Beat us, Teddy.
From that point on, Bridgewater darn near did.
In his 16th career start – a milestone within itself – Bridgewater was facing a moment in his maturation as a quarterback in the NFL that hundreds of other young quarterbacks have faced.
What would Ponder do? What would Cassel do? What would T-Jack do?
We’ll leave it up to you to connect the dots on that nightmare.
Not only did Bridgewater not fold like a card table when he knew the heat was on from start to finish – as his predecessors surely would have – he stood in the pocket and said “bring it!”
Denver did, but Bridgewater adjusted. He moved in the pocket. He ran for his life a couple of times – at one point coming inches away from replicating a mid-air John Elway helicopter job because he couldn’t slide in that particular situation to get a first down.
He lost the game. He won the locker room.
In the second half of Sunday’s game, Bridgewater got the ball out of hand 15 times. He completed 13 of those for 131 yards.
The only respite that Bridgewater got was Adrian Peterson’s 48-yard touchdown. But, even then, it was an anomaly.
There is something about fourth-and-inches plays. Defenses are geared to stuffing the play at all costs. They aren’t prepared for a clean running lane. When a back hits it, he’s gone.
That was one of the 69 plays the Vikings ran Sunday. It’s the one that made all the highlight clip shows. The other 19 times Peterson touched the ball, he gained 46 yards. That equates to 2.4 yards per touch.
The game was put on Bridgewater’s shoulders. He did what he could to win. Following the game, he was asked pointed questions and his response was that no finger-pointing would be allowed.
That’s leadership. It’s a quality Ponder, Cassel and Jackson tried to display but their play on the field never engendered the type of confidence that Bridgewater’s does.
Teddy lost Sunday, but, in many ways, he won. He knew about 90 seconds into Sunday’s game that 60 minutes couldn’t get done soon enough. A lot of young quarterbacks would have snowballed the situation.
Bridgewater found a way to do his part to make a potential blowout not only competitive, but a game that they could have won.
The Vikings never led Sunday. It was a loss that is a blueprint of how good teams win at home.
But, in defeat, Bridgewater may have turned a corner that so many have equated with a 16th start. Are you going to be better in your next 16 than you were in your first 16?
The Magic 8-Ball says “All Signs Point To Yes.”
Bridgewater was beaten, battered and bruised Sunday. Yet he came out of the game looking like he is the long-term answer for Vikings fans that have been waiting for since prior to Cassel, Ponder and T-Jack.
Even the Broncos admitted Bridgewater was on point.
“Bridgewater is a hell of a player. He had a great game,” Denver cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “He got the ball out fast. Norv Turner, he had a great game plan. We just have to tip our hats to them with how they battled.
“A lot of times we were able to get Bridgewater scrambling and things like that. Usually, sometimes he forces the throws on those, but today he was like, ‘No, I’m just going to take this shot.’ And he didn’t really force anything. He took the easy throw all day.”
A loss always stinks, but this one shouldn’t hurt as much, because Bridgewater showed that he can keep his team in a game when those who preceded him likely would have turned a 13-point deficit into a 31-point loss.