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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Zulgad: Bridgewater continues to silence critics with big day against the Bears

By Judd Zulgad

MINNEAPOLIS – Three weeks ago, there was growing concern among Vikings fans that Teddy Bridgewater might not be this team’s quarterback of the future. On Sunday, that same quarterback had to call a timeout in the fourth quarter because the crowd at TCF Bank Stadium was chanting his name so loudly and wouldn’t keep quiet.

This is why it’s never a good idea to attempt to write off a second-year quarterback based on a bad game, or even a series of subpar performances.

Bridgewater probably isn’t as good as the guy who completed 17 of 20 passes for 231 yards with a career-high four touchdowns and no interceptions in the Vikings’ 38-17 victory over Chicago, and he certainly isn’t as bad as the guy who hit on only 17 of 28 passes for 118 yards with no touchdowns and an interception in a 38-7 loss to Seattle two weeks ago in the same stadium.

In what he acknowledged was the best game of his pro career, Bridgewater accounted for five touchdowns, including a 12-yard dart into the end zone during which he got spun in the air, and had a 154.4 passer rating. That rating is the second-best all-time for a Vikings QB in a single game, second to the 157.2 rating Gus Frerotte posted in a 35-7 victory over San Francisco on Sept. 28, 2003. A perfect passer rating is 158.3.

“These past two weeks I’ve seen a different look in his eyes,” Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said of Bridgewater.

Peterson wouldn’t be the only one who has noticed his quarterback has responded impressively since a poor performance against the Seahawks in which no element of the offense performed up to expectations.

A week ago Thursday, Bridgewater completed 25 of 36 passes for a career-high 335 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions in a 23-20 loss at Arizona. Much of the attention from that game was put on the Vikings’ final possession, when Bridgewater lost the ball on a strip sack on a third-down play with 13 seconds remaining.

However, the big-picture view was that Bridgewater looked very good against an excellent Cardinals defense. The Bears (5-9) are certainly not in Arizona’s class, but Chicago did enter Sunday with the second-ranked pass defense in the NFL. The Vikings were dead last in passing offense.

This led to the logical assumption that the Vikings’ game plan would be to feed Peterson the ball as much as possible and hope that Bridgewater could hit on occasional passes to loosen up things for his star running back.

But Bridgewater made it clear that he wouldn’t be following the Vikings’ usual 2015 script for success on Minnesota’s opening drive. He completed 4 of 6 passes for 59 yards and ended the 13-play, 93-yard drive by making a perfect 15-yard pass to Stefon Diggs in the corner of the end zone.

Diggs had a step on Bears cornerback Tracy Porter, and Bridgewater made a pass that either was going to be caught by Diggs or no one.

“It was a front-pocket (play), as we call it,” said Diggs, who also caught a 33-yard touchdown pass from Bridgewater in the third quarter. “Everyone has a front pocket where you keep your pens and your notepads. But that is where we threw it at and it was a perfect place. You can’t ask for more as a receiver.”

Bridgewater’s coach, Mike Zimmer, also was impressed.

“That was pretty big,” Zimmer said. “He read the man coverage, he knew that he had that. I actually heard Scott [Turner, the Vikings’ quarterbacks coach] on the [headset] when we lined up, he said, ‘He might have the 9 route.’ And he threw it in there. I don’t think that there is an ideal game for Teddy Bridgewater. I think winning is ideal for him.”

Bridgewater, who also had scoring passes to Jerick McKinnon and Zach Line, said his best throw of the day did not result in a touchdown. Rather, it came on a seam route on which Mike Wallace caught a 34-yard pass on first down from the Vikings’ 46-yard line. “(Wallace) was matched up on a linebacker, and I did a great job of just throwing it at his back shoulder and he did a great job of making the catch,” Bridgewater said.

The completion to Wallace – the longest pass play of the season between the quarterback and veteran wide receiver– helped to set up McKinnon’s touchdown catch. Bridgewater now has 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions on the season.

About the only downside of Bridgewater’s day came on that scoring toss, as he took a hit from Demontre Hurst in which the Bears safety dived into Bridgewater’s knee as he threw the pass. That resulted in a roughing the passer call, but Bridgewater said he was fine.

“I didn’t like that the defender dove at my knees, but I think the refs made a good call and we ended up with the touchdown, so that’s what mattered most,” he said.

The Vikings improved to 9-5 with the victory and are near clinching a playoff berth. They will play host to the New York Giants next Sunday night, before closing the regular season in two weeks at Lambeau Field in a game that could decide the NFC North champion.

If the Vikings can continue to have success in the passing game, that would be a huge plus entering the playoffs. Just how important that might be was on display Sunday. Even after Peterson suffered a sprained ankle in the second quarter, the Vikings did not slow down because Bridgewater was having success.

“There was a lot of talk before last Thursday (against Arizona) about Teddy and the receivers and the pass game,” Peterson said. “Guys kept saying, ‘Hey, things are going to start rolling.’ We were able to get a taste of it last week. Unfortunately, we lost.

“To come back and duplicate that and have a great performance, it really makes our offense so much better, because (opponents) have to come in and have to respect what we’re doing in the pass game and respect what we’re doing in the run game. That’s a nightmare for a defensive coordinator.”

And a dream scenario for Zimmer.

“This is the time of year when teams become great,” he said. “When you get to the finish line and you start to see the opportunities that you have in front of us. And (Bridgewater is) a winner. It’s not perfect all the time but he is a winner.”

The post Zulgad: Bridgewater continues to silence critics with big day against the Bears appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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