SEATTLE – Teddy Bridgewater wanted to stay composed. He wanted to remain calm and in control while taking over for the next several weeks with the New Orleans Saints' leader, Drew Brees, sidelined.
But emotions can often be tricky to control. And in the moments before making his first meaningful start since the 2015 playoffs, they all hit.
"I was thinking about the process from the time I was injured up until now and just thinking about all the ones who believed in me and just being back on this stage," Bridgewater said.
Three years removed from a knee injury that nearly ended his career, Bridgewater was an unexpected winner Sunday. The former Vikings quarterback threw two touchdown passes in his first start with Brees out, watched his teammates add TDs on defense and special teams and help lead the Saints to a 33-27 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
The narrative entering the week centered on whether the Super Bowl hopes of the Saints (2-1) were lost with Brees out following ligament surgery on his right thumb. The week ended with Bridgewater throwing his hat into the stands as he ran off the field following his first victory as a starting QB since Jan. 3, 2016.
"I said all week Teddy is a leader," New Orleans running back Alvin Kamara said. "He had composure. He had poise and we got it done."
Bridgewater had started Week 17 last season, but that was a meaningless game. Sunday had significance and Bridgewater relished his opportunity.
"You never want to take the game for granted," he said. "I think last year what happened, we had the playoff spot locked up. To come into a game like today that has more meaning was one of those games where your emotions are high because the game has meaning and you haven't experienced this in a long time."
Bridgewater threw a 29-yard TD to Kamara late in the first half on a screen pass and added a 1-yard TD toss to Michael Thomas on fourth-and-goal on the first possession of the second half.
But the key for New Orleans was a pair of first-half touchdowns with Bridgewater standing on the sideline.
Deonte Harris took a punt back 53 yards for a score in the first quarter, and Vonn Bell picked up Chris Carson's third lost fumble in three games and returned it 33 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
The two non-offensive touchdowns for New Orleans, plus Seattle's numerous miscues took pressure off Bridgewater. He didn't need to win the game. He simply needed to avoid his own errors, which he did. He got the ball in the hands of his playmakers, Kamara mostly, and didn't take unnecessary risks. Bridgewater completed 19 of 27 passes for 177 yards.
The Saints took advantage of Seattle's sloppiness and handed the Seahawks (2-1) their first home loss in the month of September under Pete Carroll. Seattle had been 15-0 at home in September since 2010.
"Just had a really hard time getting out of our own way," Carroll said.