Bridgewater Dazzles In Home Debut
Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Teddy Bridgewater’s nickname is ‘Gump,’ and for good reason; he’s ‘great under major pressure.’ Whether Bridgewater’s evading rushers or playing his first game in U.S. Bank Stadium, the Minnesota Vikings quarterback is always the calmest player on the field.

That was true this afternoon, as Bridgewater and his teammates took the field for the third preseason game of the year, a 23-10 victory over the San Diego Chargers. Bridgewater returned from action after resting a sore shoulder, and though he wasn’t perfect, looked sharp in a half of action.

A week off didn’t stop Bridgewater from picking apart San Diego’s defense with his legs and a noticeably-stronger arm. Passes left his hand with a little more zip than 2015, and Norv Turner’s play calls, especially on the Vikings’ fifth-drive, conjured memories of Bridgewater’s rookie debut.

It’s fitting then, that Bridgewater’s “debut” at U.S. Bank was just as decisive.

Final Stats (Halftime)

  • Passing: 12-of-16 for 161 yards and 1 touchdown
  • Formation breakdown (of Bridgewater’s attempts)
    • 11-personnel: 9 snaps
    • 12-personnel: 1 snap
    • 21-perosnnel: 6 snaps
  • Targets
    • Stefon Diggs: 5 targets (5/5)
    • Charles Johnson: 3 targets (2/3)
    • Kyle Rudolph: 5 targets (3/5)
    • Jerick McKinnon: 2 target (2/2)
    • Zach Line: 1 target (0/1)
First Drive

The Vikings open the drive with four straight plays out of 21-personnel (two running backs and one tight end). Bridgewater benefits from Norv Turner’s surprisingly balanced opening script, which calls for two passes and two runs with the quarterback under center. 

Pass No. 1

  • 1st and 10 at MIN 27
  • (14:55 – 1st) T.Bridgewater pass short right to S.Diggs pushed ob at MIN 37 for 10 yards (M.Te’o)

McKinnon, lined up behind Bridgewater, motions to the sideline and becomes the flanker outside of Kyle Rudolph. Diggs finds himself on the left of the formation as a slot receiver, with Johnson lined up as the split receiver on the same side. At the snap, Bridgewater takes a five-step drop and hits Diggs on a crossing route. Diggs easily beats Manti Te’o over the middle and sprints to the first down marker. There’s little-to-no pressure on the quarterback, who completes his first pass in rhythm.

Pass No. 2

  • 1st and 5 at SD 23
  • (13:20 – 1st) (Shotgun) T.Bridgewater pass short left to S.Diggs to SD 17 for 6 yards (J.Verrett)

Line starts as the split receiver on the right of the formation. Johnson lines up as the opposite receiver, with Diggs in the slot on the same side. At the snap, Bridgewater takes a three-step drop and fires a ball to Diggs on a quick out. Diggs beats the man coverage and Bridgewater delivers a second-straight throw in rhythm, releasing the football as Diggs breaks to the sideline. The pass is thrown to the outside shoulder, giving Verrett little chance to break and make a play on the ball.

In the red zone, both of Bridgewater’s passes come out of 11-personnel (one running back and one tight end) and out of shotgun looks.

Pass No. 3

  • 2nd and Goal at SD 5
  • (11:15 – 1st) (Shotgun) T.Bridgewater pass incomplete short right to C.Johnson

The first finds Thielen, Rudolph, and Diggs on the left side of the formation, with Johnson in a negative split on the right. A negative split indicates the receiver is closer to the tackle than he is the sideline. Before the snap, Bridgewater motions McKinnon to the right of the formation, lining him up outside of Johnson. Bridgewater snaps the ball and takes a one-step drop. He immediately throws a fade to Johnson, who uses a natural pick from McKinnon to break for the corner pylon. The ball is high and outside, just out of Johnson’s reach. Johnson seemed to run the fade inside, while Bridgewater seemed to lead his receiver outside.

Pass No. 4

  • 3rd and Goal at SD 5
  • (11:12 – 1st) (Shotgun) T.Bridgewater pass incomplete short middle to K.Rudolph

The Vikings come out in a similar formation, only, Johnson is in a regular split to the right. At the snap, Bridgewater drops back, moves his eyes from left to right, and finds Rudolph settled in the middle of the field. But once Bridgewater throws the ball, Rudolph breaks to his left. Bridgewater appeared to fire the ball into a tight window, thinking his tight end would work to the space in the zone coverage. Their miscommunication leads to a Blair Walsh field goal.

Second Drive

The Vikings start their second drive in 21-personnel, but mix in 11-personnel in obvious passing situations.

Pass No. 5

  • 1st and 10 at SD 44
  • (8:56 – 1st) T.Bridgewater pass incomplete deep right to K.Rudolph

Diggs is the flanker to the left, with Rudolph inline next to T.J. Clemmings. Johnson lines up as the split end opposite Diggs, with McKinnon and Line in an Offset-I behind Bridgewater. At the snap, Bridgewater executes a play-action fake and seven-step drop. Clemmings appears to give up ground to the defensive end, forcing Bridgewater to throw the pass before his feet are set. He throws a pass to Rudolph on the deep crosser, missing the tight end by inches. Rudolph gets his hand on the ball, but can’t haul it in as he’s dragged from behind by the linebacker. Not a terrible pass, but one Bridgewater didn’t need to rush to complete, as the pressure wasn’t an immediate threat.

Pass No. 6

  • 2nd and 12 at SD 20
  • (6:24 – 1st) (Shotgun) T.Bridgewater pass short right to S.Diggs to SD 7 for 13 yards (D.Philon)

Johnson, Thielen, and Diggs line up as receivers on the left of the formation, with Rudolph in a negative split on the right. McKinnon lines up to the right of Bridgewater in the shotgun, and at the snap, Bridgewater takes a three-step drop. Like the first pass, he finds Diggs on a crosser over the middle, hitting his receiver in stride and on time. Diggs stops on a dime, breaking back upfield for a first down.

Pass No. 7

  • 1st and Goal at SD 7
  • (5:45 – 1st) T.Bridgewater pass incomplete short right to Z.Line (K.Emanuel)

The Vikings are back in 21-personnel, with Johnson split to the left, Rudolph inline on the right, and Diggs flanking him outside. At the snap, Bridgewater executes a play-action fake and immediately tries to throw to Line in the flat. Line is open, but a linebacker jumps and bats the ball down. Bridgewater appears to have predetermined the throw, taking little time to set his feet and look downfield. Replay shows Rudolph breaking to the corner pylon on a surefire touchdown had Bridgewater looked his way.

Third Drive

Both of Bridgewater’s throws go to McKinnon in the flat. The first, after a seven-step play action drop, is a check down with pressure coming in Bridgewater’s face. The second, a designed screen, comes on third-and-15 deep in Minnesota’s own territory.

Fourth Drive

Bridgewater finds his groove on the fourth drive, completing an array of short and intermediate passes in a number of different situations.

Pass No. 10

  • 1st and 10 at MIN 17
  • (9:00 – 2nd) T.Bridgewater pass deep left to S.Diggs to MIN 37 for 20 yards (A.Phillips) [D.Philon]

Another play action pass, another seven-step drop, but this time, with extra blockers. Laquon Treadwell is split to the right, Rudolph is the tight end to the left, and Diggs is the flanker to the left. He motions inside before the snap, lining up as a pseudo wing back next to Rudolph. At the snap, Diggs runs a deep out, and again, Bridgewater hits him in rhythm. The pass comes out at the top of Bridgewater’s drop, with absolutely zero pressure in his face. He sees the corner sprinting to the outside and throws the ball a tad inside, giving Diggs a chance to make a move and gain a few yards after the catch.

Pass No. 11

  • 2nd and 16 at MIN 31
  • (7:30 – 2nd) T.Bridgewater pass short middle to K.Rudolph to MIN 42 for 11 yards (M.Te’o)

In an obvious passing situation, the Vikings opt to line up in 21-personnel. At the snap, Bridgewater takes a five-step drop and feels pressure from the right side. Andre Smith loses the edge to the defensive end, forcing Bridgewater to step up and take the check-down throw. He finds Rudolph in the middle of the field, hitting him in the numbers for an 11-yard gain.

Pass No. 12

  • 3rd and 5 at MIN 42
  • (6:51 – 2nd) (Shotgun) T.Bridgewater pass short middle to K.Rudolph to SD 40 for 18 yards (D.McCoil). FUMBLES (D.McCoil), RECOVERED by SD-J.Verrett at SD 35. J.Verrett to SD 45 for 10 yards (M.Asiata)

On third down, Turner puts Bridgewater in the gun, with Rudolph, Thielen, and Diggs bunched on the right side of the formation. Johnson is the split end on the left, with McKinnon offset to Bridgewater’s right. Again, Smith is beat off the edge, forcing Bridgewater to step up in the pocket. He hangs tough, releasing the ball just as he’s taken to the ground. His pass hits Rudolph over the middle in stride, but Rudolph fumbles as he fights for extra yards. Of note: Bridgewater stayed calm in the pocket, opting to throw instead of looking for an escape route.

Fifth Drive

Bridgewater’s best drive of the night, punctuated by a 27-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph. All four completions came out of the shotgun (and 11-personnel), with route combinations designed to attack the holes in San Diego’s zones.

Pass No. 13

  • 2nd and 5 at MIN 27(2:02 – 2nd) (No Huddle, Shotgun) T.Bridgewater pass short left to C.Johnson to MIN 33 for 6 yards (C.Hayward)

A simple seven-yard hitch made possible by Bridgewater’s ball placement. He delivers a strike at the top of his drop, throwing the ball low enough where only Johnson could make the catch.

Pass No. 14

  • 2nd and 11 at MIN 32
  • (1:52 – 2nd) (Shotgun) T.Bridgewater pass deep middle to C.Johnson to SD 49 for 19 yards (M.Te’o) [D.Philon]

Johnson is split to the right, with Thielen, Rudolph, and Diggs lined up to the left. McKinnon is offset to Bridgewater’s right. At the snap, Bridgewater takes a three-step drop and holds on to the football. As John Lynch pointed out during the broadcast, Bridgewater’s footwork appears tighter, and that showed on this play. He shuffles forward, waiting for the perfect moment to throw downfield. He finally releases, finding Johnson on a deep in-breaking route. His patience was critical, as Johnson needed to clear the underneath linebacker before Bridgewater could throw. Teddy takes a shot at the end of the play, sacrificing himself to prevent an errant pass.

Pass No. 15

  • 1st and 10 at SD 49
  • (1:27 – 2nd) (Shotgun) T.Bridgewater pass deep right to S.Diggs ran ob at SD 27 for 22 yards

Diggs and Rudolph were Bridgewater’s favorite targets on Sunday, hauling in eight combined catches. Here, in a no-huddle situation, the Vikings line up in the exact same formation as the previous play. Bridgewater receives the snap and takes a three-step drop, releasing the football as soon as he hits the top. His pass finds Diggs on a deep corner, perfectly placed between the sideline and the trailing defender. This throw was “dropped in a bucket,” and though it fluttered a little, found its target on time. Bridgewater doesn’t have a rocket arm, but he’s perfectly capable of making all the throws within the structure of a play.

Pass No. 16

  • 1st and 10 at SD 27
  • (1:18 – 2nd) Kyle Rudolph Pass From Teddy Bridgewater for 27 Yrds (Pass formation) TWO-POINT CONVERSION ATTEMPT. M.Asiata rushes up the middle. ATTEMPT FAILS.

Reminiscent of Bridgewater’s touchdown to Rudolph against the New York Giants in 2015, the quarterback once again finds his tight end up the seam. Bridgewater takes a three-step drop and throws the football high; just out of reach of the underneath linebacker. The pass falls between the deep safety and the linebackers, forcing Rudolph to jump up and snag the ball out of the air. Like every other throw on the drive, Bridgewater’s pass was accurate and delivered on time.

Takeaways

Bridgewater wasn’t perfect; he took three sacks and missed a few opportunities down the field. Still, any questions of a sore shoulder or Bridgewater’s health have been answered — he’s healthier than ever. If you need proof, watch Bridgewater’s 22-yard scamper through the San Diego defense.

Heading into 2016, Bridgewater appears more comfortable in Turner’s offense than he ever did in 2015. McKinnon’s decisive running and a mix of shotgun plays gave the Vikings a balance they’ve been lacking, and it’ll be interesting to see if that continues when Adrian Peterson returns. For now, it’s a positive to see Bridgewater rise to the occasion and perform as well as he did in the team’s “home opener.”