Teddy Bridgewater was back in his usual rhythm Wednesday, rattling off rapid-fire talking points from the coaching staff during an eight-plus-minute podium session with reporters. But there is some weight with the one thing the second-year Vikings quarterback is sure to mention every Wednesday: the need to start strong.
Bridgewater did not do that in Sunday night’s 20-13 victory over the Green Bay Packers. He completed only one of his first five passes and never seemed to recover, finishing with a career-low 99 yards on 10-for-19 passing.
Bridgewater’s cringe-worthy lefthanded interception in the third quarter was the most glaring example of that moment being too big for him. But his opening-drive overthrow of running back Jerick McKinnon, who got behind the Packers for what should have been a long touchdown, was when he started to unravel.
“I think I was just a little too excited,” Bridgewater said of that critical miss.
His 45.7 passer rating was a season low and his Lambeau no-show was a bit of a surprise given that he entered Green Bay coming off the best three-game stretch of his young career, having passed for a career-high 335 yards against the Arizona Cardinals and accounted for five total touchdowns against the Chicago Bears.
In most of his top performances this season, Bridgewater was on point early.
He was 3-for-3 for 42 yards in the first drive in the Week 14 loss to the Cardinals. In the victory over the Bears a week later, he completed four of his six passes for 59 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown, on another opening touchdown drive.
“[Completing passes early] just gets us rolling as a unit,” Bridgewater said.
But he suggested that trying to do too much led to his struggles in Green Bay.
“We’re at our best when we’re taking [easier] completions, taking what the defense is giving us, not trying to be too perfect on every play,” he said.
Sunday’s NFC wild-card playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks will be even bigger than last weekend’s winner-take-all NFC North showdown. In the first postseason start of his NFL career, the 23-year-old must guard against getting too amped up again.
“Growing up watching some of the most epic battles in NFL history, and now I get to take part in an NFL playoff game,” Bridgewater said. “It’s huge for us.”
Bridgewater probably cannot afford to get off to another slow start against the Seahawks, who limited him to 118 passing yards, sacked him four times and intercepted him once in their 38-7 victory on Dec. 6 at TCF Bank Stadium.
So does coach Mike Zimmer have any concerns about his quarterback going in?
“I don’t know. We will find out this week,” he said before walking it back a bit. “I don’t have any concerns about Teddy. I’m sure he will play good this week.”