Powers: Bridgewater goes from Minnesota’s future to present

Tom Powers St. Paul Pioneer Press No need for any more chants of "Teddy, Teddy ..." Teddy Bridgewater is now the man, rain or shine, come hell or high water. And Christian Ponder is a heartbeat away from the throne. We all knew that at some point...

Tom Powers

St. Paul Pioneer Press

No need for any more chants of “Teddy, Teddy …” Teddy Bridgewater is now the man, rain or shine, come hell or high water. And Christian Ponder is a heartbeat away from the throne.
We all knew that at some point Bridgewater was going to be the alpha Viking. It’s just that sometimes these things don’t happen in orderly fashion. On Sunday, the cautious developmental process was short-circuited when Matt Cassel suffered multiple fractures to his left foot.
Just like that Bridgewater went from the quarterback of the future to the quarterback of the present. A pat on the fanny and a “go get ‘em” and he was out there against the rough and tumble New Orleans Saints.
“I wasn’t nervous because this is where I always wanted to be,” Bridgewater said. “Unfortunately, the way it happened wasn’t the way I expected it to.”
Pressed into service, the kid looked poised in the face of myriad problems, including a leaky offensive line and occasional headset failure resulting in poor communication.
“To come into this atmosphere here in this Superdome as calm and as composed as he was, I didn’t think we missed a beat with him out there,” tight end Kyle Rudolph said.
Well, the beat was irregular to begin with. The Vikings went from near disaster to a respectable loss. That’s probably what it’s come down to after just three weeks: respectability. The Vikings played hard, but the loss of Adrian Peterson has gutted the offense. The defense always was iffy. Now a rookie quarterback takes over.
Watching him in action, it’s easy to see the promise. There’s an edginess to him on the field. He’s not out there to manage anything. Instead, he’s out there to make something happen. He has an ability to stay focused on his receivers until the last second, even with blood-thirsty linemen closing in, and then zip the ball. It’s a totally different dynamic than we’re used to seeing at the quarterback position.
“It’s a tough situation going in there,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “He made some very good throws. Obviously, he missed a couple. He was able to extend plays with his legs, He overcame some tough situations.”
One of those tough situations involved mysteriously malfunctioning headsets. This is the second time this season - two for two on the road - where this type of problem limited communication from the coaches’ booth to the field. That’s not the best thing for a quarterback making his debut.
“Everything is more difficult because the clock is running down and you’re not able to line up in motion or whatever you need to do,” Zimmer said. “You have to repeat it a couple of times. Then, all of a sudden, they give you a different look and you can’t change what you’re going to do.”
Zimmer said Bridgewater “handled it well.” The kid’s trademark is staying cool under pressure. He showed that Sunday. And unlike many other young quarterbacks, he did not develop a case of “happy feet” under heavy pressure.
“I think it was pretty good,” Bridgewater said of his performance. “I missed a couple of easy throws but I think, overall, it was a good performance.”
Whether Bridgewater is ready remains to be seen. Yet in a season in which the bar already has been dramatically lowered, we’re all going to find out. There are no other options.
From now on, the focal point will be evaluating Bridgewater’s play. It’s more than just getting a sneak peek. The team’s future and the young quarterback’s are entwined. Just as the Vikings have extricated themselves from the entanglements to Ponder, it seeks to commit to Bridgewater. Now the relationship is on display sooner rather than later.
As for the numbers: 12 of 20 for 150 yards. He wasn’t intercepted and was sacked twice. He also ran six times for 27 yards. Nothing earth-shattering there, but he did demonstrate a presence. The Saints were aware of him. The Superdome crowd was aware of him.
As unfortunate as the injury is for Cassel, perhaps someday people will look back on Sunday as the day when Bridgewater took over the Vikings offense. For the record, the changing of the guard occurred less than a minute into the second quarter. Cassel took off up the middle on third and 10 and was hit hard after a 7-yard gain. He hobbled off the field.
In the NFL’s cycle of life, a new beginning always follows an unexpected ending. That’s how a lot of people look at it, anyway. Here’s how Bridgewater looks at it:
“First off, my prayers go out to Matt. Matt has been nothing but supportive to me and I am going to keep him in prayers and wish him nothing but the best.”
After which he pronounced himself ready.

The Pioneer Press is in a media partnership with Forum News Service.


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