Zimmer on Bridgewater: ‘This is his team now’
Resilience has become rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's greatest asset. In his 10th start Sunday, Bridgewater posted the fourth victory in which he has led the Vikings from behind in the fourth quarter or overtime. His 87-yard touchdown pass...
Resilience has become rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s greatest asset.
In his 10th start Sunday, Bridgewater posted the fourth victory in which he has led the Vikings from behind in the fourth quarter or overtime. His 87-yard touchdown pass to Jarius Wright beat the Jets 30-24 in overtime at TCF Bank Stadium.
“I just saw the (defensive) look and got us into the right play,” said Bridgewater, who is 5-5 as a starter.
The actual throw was nothing to speak of. Bridgewater simply turned and threw a receiver screen pass down the line of scrimmage. But Bridgewater’s recognition of an all-out blitz and the alert check into a backup play is what impressed Jets coach Rex Ryan.
“That was my call on the third down,” Ryan said. “Just trying to get off the field on a coverage zero (blitz). (Bridgewater) hadn’t hit anything against it all day.”
But that’s Bridgewater. He doesn’t carry the bad plays with him throughout the game. He cuts them loose, which is a great trait to have as a rookie.
Physically, Bridgewater took some hard hits but stood firm while posting a 117.7 passer rating with 309 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half.
“He is a tough kid now, a tough kid,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “He got racked a couple of times today and hung in there. He made a lot of great decisions and then he made some great throws.
“The thing the veterans really respect and appreciate about Teddy is the way he prepares, the way he studies, the way he cares about his job, and I think the way he loves playing this game. He practices to be perfect in the games as well.”
Before Sunday’s game, Ryan was 8-1 as a head coach against rookie quarterbacks. The only other rookie quarterback to beat Ryan was Russell Wilson in 2012.
“I think when Teddy decides to be the leader of this football team ... this franchise is Teddy’s,” Zimmer said. “I know that was a good headline for you. That’s what he needs to do; he needs to take it over. This is his team now.”
In his fourth start of the season and his career, linebacker Gerald Hodges set the franchise record for fastest defensive score when he returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown just 12 seconds into the win over the Jets.
“Best play of my life,” Hodges said of the touchdown that tied a Percy Harvin’s kickoff return in 2012 as the fastest score of any kind in team history.
With Anthony Barr, the team’s leading tackler through 12 games, inactive because of a knee injury, Hodges got the start. His first three starts came when Chad Greenway was injured earlier this season.
“I’m not sure I could have done this last year,” Hodges said. “Last year, I don’t think my head was in it like it should have been. Not like it is this year.”
Two tight ends to the right side of the offense tipped Hodges off that a slant pass to Percy Harvin was coming to the left side. Hodges moved to his right, leaped high into the air, snagged the ball with his left hand, came down, spun to his right and ran to the right sideline for the score.
“We see the formations so many times in practice that come game time, we already know what’s coming,” Hodges said. “You see the formation and you go set yourself up to try and make the play.”
Left tackle Matt Kalil’s struggles continued Sunday when he gave up a sack for a safety and was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a PAT.
The latter had coach Mike Zimmer more upset than the former. The ensuing kickoff came from the 20-yard line. Percy Harvin returned it 47 yards to the Vikings’ 35-yard line, setting up an easy field goal drive.
“It’s just one of those things where I was the last guy to retaliate, so I got the flag,” Kalil said. “No. 58 (Jason Babin) kept driving me after the play was over. I kind of gave him a shove to get him off me. Then I think one of their players grabbed my shoulder. I kind of gave him a shove and the official saw me.
“I like to play smart. It’s not the kind of penalty I like to commit. But it’s football. Emotions fly sometimes.”