Mike Zimmer: Teddy Bridgewater ‘needs to play better’ for Minnesota Vikings

Mike Zimmer spoke the truth when he said Teddy Bridgewater “needs to play better” than he did in a poor showing against the Green Bay Packers. A few plays stood out.

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had been playing some of his best football in the month of December. He was a key factor in the Vikings’ final two games of the month when they outscored their opponents 87-34.

However, the month of January seems to be telling a different story for the young quarterback, at least so far. Sunday night’s game against the Green Bay Packers wasn’t a good one for Bridgewater.

It was the first time the second-year quarterback had ever played in January and he went 10-for-19 passing for 99 yards and a touchdown, ending with a quarterback rating of 45.7. He also ran the ball twice for 2 yards and was sacked three times.

“He just wasn’t as sharp (Sunday) night as he’s been these last three weeks,” head coach Mike Zimmer said. “I thought he moved in the pocket too much. He didn’t take some of the easy throws he had. He may be trying to do a little too much, I don’t know. I haven’t really talked to him yet. I’ll talk to him more this week. But he needs to play better.”

At the start of the game, it almost seemed as though Bridgewater was trying to be too careful with his passes.

The Vikings took three shots of 20 or more yards in their first drive, all three of which would have been touchdowns if Bridgewater could have connected, but he overthrew all of them.

The worst of the three came on his first pass of the night. Running back Jerick McKinnon came into the game for Adrian Peterson and motioned out wide to Bridgewater’s right before the snap of the ball. That caused him to be lined up on linebacker Jake Ryan, a clear mismatch, and McKinnon took advantage of it.

He was able to get behind the linebacker and had about a 4-yard cushion when Bridgewater threw him the ball. If the quarterback could have completed the pass to McKinnon it would have been an easy touchdown, but instead he overthrew him by a couple yards and their first drive ended with a field goal.

“When we’ve practiced that to Jerick, he’s hit him – every time he throws it perfectly to him,” Zimmer said of Bridgewater’s ability to complete that pass in practice.

That was just one of moments during the game where Bridgewater left observers perplexed, wondering what happened. He had been playing at a high level against the Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears and New York Giants, which made last Sunday’s game against the Packers look like a different quarterback.

Bridgewater is usually a very poised quarterback, even under pressure, and he rarely makes the mental mistakes you see quarterbacks make from time to time. But on Sunday, he made one of them.

It was a third down-and-5 in the third quarter with the ball on the Vikings 39-yard line. The Packers rushed five defenders and were able to flush the quarterback out of the pocket. Linebacker Mike Neal got to Bridgewater and while the defender was draped all over his right side, the right-handed quarterback switched the ball to his left hand and threw an awkward pass.

In an all-too-predictable turn of events, Packers cornerback Micah Hyde made a backhanded interception. Zimmer was upset with Bridgewater’s decision to throw the ball and apparently had some choice words for him on the sideline after the play.

“The left-handed throw was – well, you don’t even want to know what I told him on that one,” Zimmer said.

Even with Bridgewater’s poor performance on Sunday night, the Vikings were still able to pull off the win, which earned them the division title and a home game in the first round of the playoffs.

If the Vikings hope to keep their season alive, they are going to need their quarterback to play much better against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. The two teams played earlier in the season and Bridgewater went 17-for-28 for 118 yards and an interception, giving him a passer rating of only 55.4.

That performance contributed to the loss when the two teams met on Dec. 6 and it means Bridgewater will have to play better, as Zimmer said, if the Vikings expect a win in the rematch.

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