Leading into the Vikings’ 28-27 win against the Panthers, some of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s former coaches in Minnesota called him a “winner” — adding that he’s the type of passer you don’t want to have to defend against at the end of the game.
That scenario was realized Sunday afternoon, when Bridgewater was 3 yards and a touchdown away from burying his former team. But Bridgewater misfired a third-and-goal pass, and the Panthers settled for a field goal and a 27-21 lead that would disappear minutes later when quarterback Kirk Cousins led the game-winning drive.
Bridgewater threw behind a wide-open D.J. Moore in the middle of the end zone. Panthers coordinator Joe Brady’s play call came in late, according to Bridgewater, which hurried the play out of a Vikings timeout and prevented a pre-snap motion that could’ve helped him decipher the defense.
“[Could’ve] seen the look, check into a run play and hopefully we score or make the clock go down,” Bridgewater said. “Just one of those deals where D.J. popped open. Wasn’t the right look, but still just got to hit the throw.”
Panthers coach Matt Rhule said officials spotted the ball out of the timeout faster than Carolina’s coaches anticipated, leading to the delay in the play call.
But the Vikings made life hard on Bridgewater throughout. He completed just two of nine throws for 21 yards and an interception to start the game. While he wasn’t sacked, Bridgewater was hit a handful of times, including on his final throw, when safety Harrison Smith blitzed.
Bridgewater grabbed his left arm in pain but afterward said he was fine. Rhule said he was considering another play with 6 seconds left but didn’t with Bridgewater appearing injured.
“We put some pressure on him,” Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson said. “Whether or not that resulted in a sack, just to get him moving around.”
After the loss, Bridgewater walked over the Vikings logo at midfield and found Zimmer, for whom he started 28 games from 2014-15, and put his arm around his former coach. They hugged and chatted, followed by a reunion with such Vikings veterans as tight end Kyle Rudolph and safeties Smith and Anthony Harris.
But Bridgewater didn’t want to discuss emotions returning to U.S. Bank Stadium, where four years ago he started his final Vikings game — a 2016 exhibition — before the knee injury that led his former team a different direction.
“Honestly, I was just here to play a football game and try to win,” Bridgewater said. “Obviously, we came up short. But hopefully we can use this bye, get a little time and come back and get on a run for the next four games.”