Teddy Bridgewater’s perfect fourth-quarter passer rating while executing his fifth comeback win is further extension of the trend that the Minnesota Vikings’ second-year quarterback is stronger with the game on the line than he has been in the first halves of games.
“As the game goes on he seems to get a better feel of everything the team is doing,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “Like I say, sometimes when you come out early in the ballgame, you get a lot of different looks that change it up and doing different things or the safety is rotating different or the corners are playing their coverages a little bit different. And I think as the game goes on, he just has a way to be able to process, (see) what they’re doing. And I think Scott (Turner, quarterbacks coach) does a great job on the sideline with him.”
The statistics support the line of thinking that Bridgewater is better late in games, especially when they are close.
Overall this year, Bridgewater has completed 64.5 percent of his passes for six touchdowns, five interceptions and a passer rating of 85.5.
In the second halves of games, his completion percentage rises to 68.8, ninth in the league. In the fourth quarter, his completion percentage is exactly at his stated goal of 70 percent, also ninth.
In Sunday’s 23-20 win over the Chicago Bears, when Bridgewater led the Vikings to 10 points in the final five minutes of the game, he completed 17 of 30 passes for 187, one touchdown, one interception with a passer rating of 72.5.
But in the final two drives for 10 points, he scrambled for 19 yards and a first down after taking a sack and completed 6 of 8 passes for 106 yards and his lone touchdown of the game.
“I just have to continue to let the game come to me, continue to just do a better job of getting the football out of my hands and allowing our guys to make plays, whether it’s taking the check-down and letting our guys go make a play rather than trying to get the big shot every play,” Bridgewater said when asked what the difference was in those final two drives. “So just having some patience and letting the game come to me. I think that’s what I started to do towards the end of the game.”
While his first-half passer rating doesn’t rank among the top 20 in the league, in the second halves Bridgewater is 17th at 89.6.
“I think he is careful with the football, but I would not say he is tentative,” Zimmer said. “Sometimes young guys still get fooled once in a while and I think sometimes he gets coverage that came up a different way than he expected, so he ends up going somewhere else. But I wouldn’t say he’s tentative, no.”
Three of Bridgewater’s five interceptions this year have come in the first half, with his other two coming in the fourth quarter of games. Yet when the game is late and close, his completion percentage rises above his stated goal for the season of 70 percent, up to 71.4 percent.
“I think he does a lot of things that people don’t recognize, that people don’t see, whether it’s getting in plays, out of plays, moving in the pocket, avoiding a bad, negative thing. There’s a lot to be said for that,” Zimmer said. “Probably if I was going to critique him on doing something a little bit better, I think when we have the opportunity to hit some plays that come up the right way, that we need to hit them. That could be sometimes a protection breaks down, sometimes he came off the particular receiver too soon, or the coverage dictated it going somewhere else. But I believe he’ll continue to get better at all of those things.”