CRAWFORD | Bridgewater goes deep, stays cool in first NFL exhibition of his third season
WDRB's Eric Crawford caught up with former University of Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater after his Minnesota Vikings beat the Cincinnati Bengals 17-16 in their first exhibition game of the season Friday night.
CINCINNATI (WDRB) — The off-season chorus around Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (aside from the “Hey Teddy” rap videos a boy made to invite Bridgewater to celebrate his birthday) could be titled, “Deep Thoughts.”
After being one of the most accurate passers in the NFL and leading the Vikings to the NFC North Division title and a playoff berth last season, Bridgewater still heard plenty about his anemic statistics on deep passes.
In part because of the fantasy-stat charged world the NFL lives in, and in part because you can only go so far in the league without the ability to stretch opposing defenses, it’s the biggest question Bridgewater will have to answer in his third NFL season, and he set about answering it this week.
In scrimmages against the Cincinnati Bengals, Bridgewater was impressive. Veteran NFL writer Peter King of Sports Illustrated raved about him to Vikings.com after a workout on Thursday.
But in his first series of Friday’s 17-16 season-opening exhibition win at Cincinnati, all the talk of improved deep accuracy seemed moot. Bridgewater was running for his life.
He had to scramble right and stiff-arm Geno Atkins out of the way before dumping the ball off for a short gain.
“I was trying to tell Geno to calm down a little bit, man,” Bridgewater joked. “But it just happened.”
A play later he was hit and sacked on his second, then hurried on his third.
Perhaps because that series was so quick — and uneventful — Bridgewater came out for a second. Taking over at his own 4-yard line, he drove the Vikings 96 yards on 10 plays, and hit Charles Johnson in stride on a 49-yard TD strike that, at least for today, answered some criticism of his deep game.
“I thought he did good,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “Teddy’s always going to take good care of the football and he’s a very accurate thrower. He’s nimble. He avoided the rush and hit Charles Johnson on that touchdown. You know, Teddy continues to improve. . . . It’s good to get chunks. That’s what you have to do to loosen up the defense a little bit.”
A preseason game doesn’t mean much. But Bridgewater admitted it felt pretty good to hit a deep touchdown in his first game of the preseason, after hearing so much about the deep ball — and putting so much work into throwing it — in the offseason. He finished 6 of 7 for 92 yards and the touchdown, and logged a perfect passer rating of 158.3.
“It was a great feeling,” Bridgewater said. “Charles did a great job of tracking the ball and the offensive line gave me a great pocket. . . . We were able to accomplish some things on that drive, work on some different situations we’ve been working on.”
But it wasn’t just one pass and one drive. Bridgewater was impressive in practices this week, and observers like King got to see his improvement first hand.
The play that excited King was a 30 yard touch-pass down the sideline to Stefon Diggs.
“Probably one of the best plays I’ve seen on my camp tour,” King told Vikings.com. “Teddy Bridgewater throws a ball . . . and it very sweetly just flies over the outstretched hands of Adam Jones right into Diggs’ hands. I said, ‘That’s a beautiful throw.’ And the fact that Adam Jones yells an expletive when that play happens said to me, ‘It’s on.’”
King also said that Bridgewater, “played very well last year. Talking to Norv Turner after this (Wednesday) practice, talking to Mike Zimmer, obviously he’s having a really good camp and people should be bullish on Teddy Bridgewater.”
Many people are — especially the contingent from Louisville that made the trek to Cincinnati to watch Bridgewater play in a couple of series.
“To see (Louisville) fans, it just means a lot to me,” Bridgewater said. “It’s only an hour and a half away. It kind of feels like I’m back home.”
Bridgewater says he’s reached a comfort level with the NFL game, but that he knows he has a long way to go. He got dressed in front of his locker. Tucked some things into his matching Louis Vitton bags. Took five minutes to go to the training room to cool off, then came back to face the cameras.
Even in 90-plus degree heat, Bridgewater is still the coolest guy in the room.
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