The Minnesota Vikings came away with a 30-14 victory over the Oakland Raiders, but it wasn’t the performance many were expecting from second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater against a pass defense that was last in the league. Bridgewater was sacked four times for 18 yards and went 14-for-22 for 140 yards and a touchdown.
Coming into the game, the Vikings wanted to try to take advantage of the Raiders’ 32nd-ranked passing defense by attacking them deep. That didn’t end up happening, however, as Bridgewater ended up holding onto the ball too long and then scrambling to avoid the pressure.
His longest pass went to Stefon Diggs for 37 yards, but that was a short pass where the wide receiver was able to get yards after the catch.
“We tried to throw the ball vertically down the field a few times and it takes a little bit longer,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. “So it’s something that we will look at and go from there.”
Even though the Raiders defense has struggled throughout the season, they seemed to have the perfect game plan in place to stop the Vikings’ passing attack. They were able to neutralize the wide receivers for most of the game, especially when they were running down the field, and the defensive line did a good job of pressuring Bridgewater.
The quarterback even had a stretch through the entire third quarter where he did not complete a pass to a wide receiver. Actually, he completed just two passes in the third quarter, one to Adrian Peterson for minus-3 yards and one to Matt Asiata for 11 yards.
“They were definitely doing a great job of just taking away some of the things that we were trying to do,” Bridgewater said. “They had a great game plan also. Their defensive line was playing some great football today. Like I said, they just took some things away from us today.”
Part of the reason why Bridgewater never tried to force things to his receivers downfield is because he never felt as though he had to. The Vikings defense, special teams and running game were all playing well throughout the game and he did not want to be the one to mess things up by trying to force the ball downfield.
Instead, he settled for his safety valves and short completions or just throwing the ball away while escaping pressure.
“I think I did a great job of not trying to force throws and living to see another down,” he said. “There were plenty of times where they took away the first read, second read and I didn’t have time to check the ball down. Try to buy some time out of the pocket but just had to throw the ball away. We would rather throw the ball away than take a risk downfield and put our defense in a bad situation.”
Even though Bridgewater didn’t the best of statistical games, these are the type of games that Bridgewater doesn’t mind playing – one where he doesn’t have to be a part of a shootout and the whole team is contributing to the win.
The question still seems to remain, though, whether or not Bridgewater can carry them to a victory in a shootout. At times, he seems too concerned with not turning the ball over that he does not want to try and stretch the field and make a play.
Eventually, he will be put in a situation where he will need to do more through the air, but as for Sunday he did enough to get the win.
“It wasn’t pretty today,” he said, “but we came away with a victory.”