That’s tied for the fourth-most sacks in the NFL this year, but he hasn’t attempted the number of passes of any of the quarterbacks in the top three in sacks. Bridgewater has attempted 291 passes. The most-sacked passer in the league, Russell Wilson, has attempted 295 passes and has been sacked 35 times. Alex Smith has attempted 324 passes and been sack 33 times, and Blake Bortles has attempted 386 passes and been sacked 32 times.
Despite that, the Vikings believe Bridgewater has the elusiveness to avoid the pressure.
“He’s a good athlete. That’s why I’ve been talking about he gets himself out of a lot of bad situations,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “He’s a good athlete. I wouldn’t say he’s a runner, but he does have some athletic ability moving in the pocket, some quickness.”
Wilson is best among quarterbacks with 385 yards rushing, and the others atop the list – Cam Newton, Geno Smith – are no surprise. Way down on the list of rushing yards among quarterbacks is Bridgewater at 13th with 159 yards.
“It could be a huge weapon, but the thing is I don’t want to have to be running all the time and that’s something that (offensive coaches) told me. I have to do a good job of knowing when to take off and things like that,” Bridgewater said. “I think that just having a mindset, a clock that goes off in your head, if something isn’t there down the field, you see favorable coverage that allows you to run you take advantage of it. But we have guys here that do a great job running the football.
“Hopefully I don’t have to run even more.”
The Vikings are facing the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL this Sunday when they travel to Atlanta. Bridgewater said the Vikings will continue to try to get an “exceptional” Adrian Peterson going in the ground game – and Peterson leads the league with 1,006 rushing yards – but Bridgewater’s focus is “to complete passes and take control of the offense.”
Even so, Falcons coach Dan Quinn, who was the defensive coordinator at Seattle and saw Wilson’s effectiveness running the ball, cited Bridgewater’s feet as a weapon.
“Sometimes that happens on a third-and-2 or 3 and the quarterback has a 6-yard drop and he scrambles up and gets it, but I was impressed by his foot quickness and his speed to go and then you saw the competitor, he wasn’t going to slide, there was often times he was going to run it,” Quinn said. “So those are the things that stand out and kind of impressed me. I think the toughness kind of shows up on tape at that position, and I’m sure that’s why a lot of his teammates have a lot of respect for him.”
Despite that, Bridgewater is one of the most-sack quarterbacks in the league. He has three games this season where he has been sacked five or more times, and he has been sacked 10 times in the last two games.
Bridgewater is getting sacked one out of every 9.7 passing attempts, or 10.3 percent of the time. Of the top five most-sacked quarterbacks, only Wilson is sacked more frequently (one out of every 8.42 attempts). By comparison, Derek Carr is sacked only 3.1 percent of the time when attempting to pass, third-best in the league.
“I think it’s a weapon anytime the quarterback moves in the pocket,” Zimmer said. “Typically it slows the rush down a little bit because they’re nervous. You get a lot less double-man coverages and things like that. I know he scrambled, but I wouldn’t qualify him as really a running quarterback.”
The Vikings have lost 240 yards on sacks, second-most in the league, and they have allowed 63 quarterback hits, 10th-most in the NFL.
Of course, Bridgewater downplayed the effects of all the hits he has taken, whether those happen on a sack, a quarterback hit or when running the ball. Last week, he was listed on the injury report with a left shoulder.
“I’m actually feeling pretty good,” he said. “I have a great training staff that does a great job with us with any nicks and bruises that we may have. Those guys have been very good for us this year so I’m feeling pretty good heading to this Atlanta game.”