You won’t find Teddy Bridgewater in the top half of the league for passing yards, passing touchdowns or explosive plays. But wins and playing smart are more important to Bridgewater and Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer.
Only three of Bridgewater’s interceptions have come in the second halves of games and Zimmer is pleased with Bridgewater’s performance to date.
Just don’t call Bridgewater a game manager.
“Coach Zimmer doesn’t like the word game manager,” Bridgewater said. “He’s says I’m a playmaker. Hearing that from him, that just speaks volumes.”
Said Zimmer: “I don’t think that’s what he is. I don’t know what a game manager is, really. I think Teddy’s got an extremely bright future. I think he’s a heck of a quarterback and I’m glad he’s mine.”
The Vikings haven’t had to force the ball downfield much because of their running game and the ability of receivers to make moves – and yards – after the catch. More than half of Bridgewater’s 1,810 passing yards have come after the catch.
“We have a system here and my job is to play at a high level and try to protect the football,” Bridgewater said. “I think we’ve done a good job so far this year of not putting our defense in bad situations. The bright side is we’re 7-2, we’re winning football games and that’s all that matters.”
The Vikings are atop the NFC North and facing one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the league, Aaron Rodgers, who is known for his ability to buy extra time when pressured initially. That’s something Bridgewater appreciates, but hasn’t completely mastered it.
Bridgewater has been sacked 24 times so far, sixth-most in the league, but his concentration is playing to the situation.
“We definitely have a lot that we can do. It’s about having an understanding,” Bridgewater said. “For instance, if we’re in the red zone fringe, 35-yard line, and we know that Blair (Walsh) is capable of hitting 50-plus-yard fields, for me I know to try to avoid the sack to make the field goal easier for him. Coach Zimmer is big on field position, whether it’s avoiding a sack, throwing the ball away so we can punt the ball to pin our opponents down to keep their back against their end zone, just things like that – having an understanding of field position, having an understanding of what Blair is capable of doing and Jeff (Locke).”
Bridgewater is tied for 20th with 16 passing plays that have gone more than 25 yards. And when it’s “late and close,” he is fifth by completing 72 percent of his attempts in that situation, an increase of almost 10 percent from his first-quarter completion percentage.
“We have the big-play capability in our offense. We call those shots and they’re there throughout the course of the game, but sometimes it may not come up the way we draw it up,” Bridgewater said. “Sometimes you might have to check the ball down and things like that.”
The second-year quarterback is 26th in the league with 23 pass plays of 20 yards or more, and 24th with four of 40 yards or more. But Zimmer cares far more about winning than having a quarterback producing explosive plays.
“(Winning) trumps most. I guess maybe one of the best statistics is that he doesn’t hurt his team, ever. Very rarely does he hurt his team,” Zimmer said. “Most of the time he’s helping his team in a lot of ways that don’t show up in number of yards. We always said we wanted to be a team that runs the football well, plays good defense, plays good special teams. We kind of do that a little bit. I think when games get on the line, and this may be a game, he may have to do some things.”