A decent number of fans looked at Teddy Bridgewater’s game Sunday — 14 of 18 for 153 yards and a touchdown pass, with another 6 carries for 21 yards and a TD — and decided the Vikings QB was efficient but hardly spectacular in leading a 26-16 victory.
But by one measure — Total QBR, a relatively new stat that has replaced the more traditional passer rating in some circles when gauging a QB’s effectiveness — Bridgewater wasn’t just efficient. He was, in fact spectacular. Some might even say historically great.
He posted a Total QBR of 98.5 on Sunday; the highest a QB can get is 99.9. There were only 12 individual games last season in which a QB had a higher number, and Bridgewater’s 98.5 is the third-best single-game total this season through two weeks. No Vikings QB has posted a higher number than Bridgewater’s 98.5 Sunday since Total QBR started being measured in 2006.
Total QBR is a fairly complicated and still somewhat flawed stat — no measure is perfect, after all. What it aims to do is take into consideration the situations in which plays are made by a quarterback instead of just quantifying raw data like yards, TDs and INTs to help determine what that quarterback’s impact was on a game.
ESPN explains it thusly: The Total Quarterback Rating is a statistical measure that incorporates the contexts and details of those throws and what they mean for wins. It’s built from the team level down to the quarterback, where we understand first what each play means to the team, then give credit to the quarterback for what happened on that play based on what he contributed.
For Bridgewater, that means that on virtually every play in which he participated in a meaningful way (an action play), he did something positive for the Vikings on Sunday. Even his incomplete passes tended to be purposeful throwaways. And his positive-yardage plays tended to be very influential. Consider;
His first run was an 8-yard scamper on 3rd-and-3 on the Vikings’ initial drive, which ended with a 5-yard TD pass to Kyle Rudolph.
His second run was a 1-yard keeper for a TD on 4th-and-goal.
His third run was a 6-yard gain on 3rd-and-6 from the Detroit 7, leading to a 1st-and-goal that Zach Line cashed in for a TD.
Four of his 14 completions were third-down throws that resulted in first downs, and three of those were on 3rd-and-8 or longer. The other was a 49-yarder after a short flip to Adrian Peterson when he avoided pressure (that Peterson caused by missing a block).
So while Bridgewater’s overall numbers didn’t add up to eye-catching totals and the postgame story was the emergence of Peterson after a workhorse day with 29 carries for 134 yards, Bridgewater’s quieter work was arguably just as important or even more so. It’s plausible to think both players benefited from the other’s good work.
I’ll admit I was surprised when I saw Bridgewater’s 98.5 number, but in retrospect it makes sense. (Conversely, he had a dismal 24.6 mark in last week’s loss to the 49ers, which also makes sense).
While Total QBR isn’t a definitive stat, I do find it to be more useful than passer rating. Bridgewater had three games in the 80s last season and four others between 70 and 80. The Vikings were 6-1 in those games. A season mark of 70 is a good threshold for an upper-echelon QB. Nine NFL quarterbacks reached it last season. Bridgewater, as a rookie, finished 17th at 56.9.
For Bridgewater, like so many other young players, the key will be establishing consistency. But if the keeps having games like the one he had Sunday — even without traditional stats that stand out — the Vikings will have no complaints, and neither should you.