The Vikings had first-and-10 at the San Francisco 26-yard line. A running situation on the road, in prime time, on the first snap of Adrian Peterson’s long-anticipated return.
So far, so good.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater took the snap, faked a handoff to Peterson and rolled right as defenders followed Peterson left.
So far, so good.
Jarius Wright, an elusive run-after-the-catch receiver in tight quarters, was open just beyond the line of scrimmage, running in unison with Bridgewater.
So far, so good.
Wright waited for the ball. Bridgewater held it. Held it. And held it some more until throwing late, wide and, oh yeah, out of bounds.
What the …?
Who was that guy and what had he done with the Teddy Bridgewater who completed 82.9 percent of his preseason passes?
“I could have got the ball out much faster to Jarius,” Bridgewater said Wednesday.
The next play was a pass to Charles Johnson.
The play after that was a deep ball to Wright. Wright was standing at the 10-yard line when the ball skipped incomplete at the 2-yard line.
“Yeah, that’s the first time I’ve really seen him like that,” coach Mike Zimmer said Tuesday, a day after the 20-3 loss. “Usually, he’s got so much composure.”
Wednesday, Bridgewater accepted Zimmer’s criticism and essentially pleaded guilty to being “too excited,” too “sped up” and of “overdoing it.” It was a reminder that this is a 22-year-old with 13 NFL starts.
So now it has been established. Bridgewater won’t improve every single week over the next 10 to 12 years.
So what’s the next step? What did young Theodore learn about himself during that frazzled, five-sack, one-interception Monday night meltdown?
“You have to be prepared to play in prime time,” he said. “I think I was too excited to play, and it showed. Put it in the past and learn from it. … I tell myself, ‘Hey, I can’t do the same thing that I did last week or we’re going to be sitting at home 0-2.’ ”
The Vikings have a short week, which Bridgewater says he prefers after how miserable Monday was. They’re playing at home, which will help, and they’re playing a familiar opponent in Detroit, which might or might not help.
The Detroit defense that ranked No. 2 in points allowed a year ago (17.6 per game) suffered significant offseason losses, led by tackle Ndamukong Suh signing with Miami. The Lions also blew a 21-3 lead while allowing Philip Rivers to pass for 404 yards in Sunday’s 33-28 Chargers victory in San Diego.
“There are some different faces on that defense, but the scheme is still the same,” Bridgewater said. “They’re a fast and physical team that flies to the football. They’re coming off an 11-5 season and they’re coming off a loss in Week 1 also, so they’re coming here with a chip on their shoulder.”
The Vikings lost to the Lions twice last year, 17-3 at home and 16-14 at Ford Field. It was only the second time since 1997 that the Vikings lost at home to the Lions.
Bridgewater was sacked eight times and threw five interceptions in the two games. At home, he was sacked eight times and threw three picks. Suh and end George Johnson, who also left in the offseason, combined for 3 ½ of those sacks, but end Ezekiel Ansah, who had 2 ½ of those sacks across from left tackle Matt Kalil, is back and had one sack in Week 1.
Bridgewater, of course, isn’t the only Viking seeking redemption. The team couldn’t stop the run, couldn’t protect the passer, couldn’t run the ball and missed another makable field goal.
But a calm, accurate quarterback tends to cover for a lot of deficiencies in other areas.
“The mind-set of playing quarterback here is you want to be quick,” Bridgewater said. “You want to be fast, but not in a hurry. I think Monday night, I was in a hurry.”
As expected, the players in the locker room voiced their support.
“I think he’ll bounce back well,” receiver Charles Johnson said. “You don’t know what winning is unless you lose. You don’t know what good is unless you do bad. It’s part of life. We all believe in him here, so that’s all that really matters.”