SANTA CLARA, Calif. – The statistic that has defined Teddy Bridgewater’s ascent has been completion percentage.
He was one of the most accurate passers in the NFL last December, and again this preseason.
Monday night in the Vikings’ opener, Bridgewater was again accurate, in terms of completion percentage. He completed 23 of 32 passes, for 72 percent. He passed for 231 yards. He completed passes to nine different receivers. He even rushed for 16 yards.
His offensive line gave him little protection. The running game offered him little comfort.
So in perhaps the most humbling game of his brief NFL career, Bridgewater had plenty of excuses for his performance.
He wisely did not take solace in them. Regardless of the numbers, regardless of the excuses, he played horribly.
Known for his composure, he got rattled by the 49ers’ pass rush.
Known for his accuracy, he missed open receivers badly, usually on overthrows, including one that sailed over Kyle Rudolph’s head and was intercepted.
Known for making clutch throws, he failed to sustain drives that may have altered the flow of the game.
The statistics lie. Bridgewater played poorly.
“I definitely agree,’’ he said. “I missed some easy throws tonight, some throws that set us behind the sticks, plays that could have resulted in big plays.
“It’s obvious there were some throws out there, like the one with Kyle Rudolph, running across the field, and I just overthrew him. Or up the seam, and I just overthrew him. Those are throws I make nine out of 10 times in practice.’’
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and Bridgewater both asked observers to be cautious about elevating the Vikings before they earned it.
“It’s a reality check,’’ Bridgewater said. “We know now, after tonight’s performance, that we weren’t as good as people said we were.’’
My other observations after an ugly night in Santa Clara:
1. Zimmer didn’t seem to have his team prepared to play, but at least he remained honest in the postgame news conference. He went for a first down on fourth-and-3 instead of having Blair Walsh try a field goal in the first quarter, shortly after Walsh missed a 44-yard attempt. He admitted that Walsh’s miss, and slump, affected his decision. “Probably,’’ he said.
2. The Vikings need a fullback. They tried to run the ball with Adrian Peterson out of the shotgun, meaning Peterson began his runs flat-footed with no lead blocker behind a struggling offensive line. He’s at his best speeding toward the line. A fullback would help create holes for Peterson, and protect Bridgewater in the passing game. The Vikings should have paid Jerome Felton instead of Walsh.
3. I expected the Vikings’ defensive front seven to be much better this season. After one game, it might be even worse. The 49ers’ running game was dominant. The Vikings’ linebackers either got blown off the ball on straight-ahead runs or outraced to the edge.
4. On the Vikings’ first offensive play, it looked like they wanted to use a fake to Peterson to set up a deep route to Charles Johnson. Bridgewater didn’t like what he saw downfield and threw short and incomplete. We didn’t know it at the time, but it was an omen. Johnson wound up with two catches on the game.
5. One of the reasons I expected the Vikings to be a playoff team this year was I expected them to win their first two games. Now they’re 0-1 and facing a short week of preparation for Detroit. A loss would make the Vikings serious long shots to contend for a playoff spot.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On