Teddy Bridgewater’s statistics remain largely unremarkable, in the context of this league with so many established and elite quarterbacks.
The Minnesota Vikings entered their bye week next-to-last in the NFL with 165 yards passing per game, less than half of what league leader New England has produced. Through the season’s first quarter, Bridgewater has lost an NFL-most 113 yards on 13 sacks. In 16 career starts, he’s 8-8 with 16 touchdown passes.
There’s no quantification for composure, though. That’s a category Bridgewater has proven to be plenty qualified in.
“Oh, Teddy’s a warrior,” left guard Brandon Fusco said.
Pulling too many positives from a loss in this league can be a pointless exercise, given how few games exist to put such development to use. But the Vikings saw value in a 23-20 defeat at Denver against perhaps the NFL’s best defense.
Down 13-0 midway through the second quarter, the Vikings made a game of it in one of the most difficult stadiums in the league for visitors. Their rally was led by their 22-year-old baby face of the franchise.
Despite constant pressure from Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and the rest of that relentless pass rush, Bridgewater led the Vikings to 10 points after the two-minute warning in the second quarter, and completed 13 of 15 passes for 131 yards after halftime without an interception. He also ran three times for first downs in that game.
“One of his strengths is his poise and getting the ball in the right place,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “The impressive part to me was what he did in the second half. He got hit and roughed up a little bit in that first half, and in the second half he kept his poise and made some great throws. He can play better, he can play a lot better, but I think he did some outstanding things in the second half.”
Not on that list was the lost fumble in the final minute that foiled Minnesota’s final drive and opportunity to tie or win, but given the lack of protection he had in front of him for most of the afternoon, Bridgewater could hardly be faulted for that.
“There are no moral victories,” he said, “and that’s a game that we wanted to win.”
The Vikings will win plenty more if Bridgewater can continue to play like this in the pocket.
“That’s a sign of a young guy maturing,” said general manager Rick Spielman, whose future will be staked to Bridgewater’s further improvement after his previous first-round draft pick of a quarterback, Christian Ponder in 2011, failed.
Bridgewater, as running back Adrian Peterson bluntly stated, has exhibited far more calm, consistency and confidence on the field than his predecessor.
“I think I’m making a ton of progress,” Bridgewater said, citing his improved ability to check the defense at the line of scrimmage and change the play when necessary.
With the equivalent of one full season under his helmet, Bridgewater has put himself in position for even greater gains the rest of the year, particularly with the return of Peterson, the NFL rushing leader.
“Teddy is probably the most unselfish football player on this team. If he’s only going to throw the ball 18 times, he couldn’t care less if that’s how we’re going to win,” Spielman said, adding: “We’re very excited about the direction he’s been going, and he’s only going to get better with the more experience and the more games he’s going to get.”
The Vikings (2-2) host Kansas City on Oct. 18 before consecutive trips to Detroit and Chicago and a home game against St. Louis. Then the schedule truly gets tough, with Green Bay (twice), Atlanta and Seattle looming in the second half.
For once, the Vikings aren’t trying to figure out how to solidify their quarterback position. For another twist, their most pressing matter might actually be the kicker. Blair Walsh missed another medium-range field goal at Denver, continuing a concerning slump.
“Blair is working extremely hard at trying to get through this,” Spielman said, reaffirming Walsh’s hold on the job. “We’re doing everything we can … on our end to get through this.”