Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater thrives against pressure in win over Bears

MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Minnesota Vikings went through a detailed study of the 2014 quarterback draft class, they were particularly impressed by Teddy Bridgewater's ability to play under pressure.

Bridgewater had the best numbers of anyone in the class while throwing under duress, and connected on 70.1 percent of his passes against five or more pass rushers. As general manager Rick Spielman said after the team selected Bridgewater, "He was the best against the blitz."

That wasn't often true in the first 26 games of Bridgewater's NFL career, as he tried to play behind a permeable offensive line with a shifting cast of play-makers. But on Sunday, as Bridgewater was at his best in a 38-17 win over the Bears, he also gave the Vikings a glimpse of what they saw in him last spring.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, Bridgewater completed five of his six passes under pressure, throwing for 81 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It was the first time he's thrown two touchdown passes under pressure, and it helped him fashion a 154.4 passer rating.

The Vikings seem to be molding an offense that can work around their pass-protection issue; Bridgewater threw 15 of his 20 passes less than five yards and had the ball out of his hands faster, on average, than in any other game in his career. He took just 2.26 seconds on average before throwing, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

"I think he just maybe feels a lot more comfortable with the things we’re doing now," coach Mike Zimmer said. "I think we’re starting to settle into who we are."

That hadn't always been the case -- Bridgewater had privately expressed some frustration with certain elements of the Vikings' game plan earlier this year -- but he seems to be settling in now. And especially when he was pressured Sunday, the 23-year-old responded how the Vikings hoped he would.

Here are some notes and observations on the offense from Sunday's win:

Total offensive plays: 62

Wide receivers

Notes: Vikings receivers gained 169 of the team's 231 passing yards after the catch, and Diggs' second touchdown was a prime example. He caught a four-yard pass from Bridgewater on 3rd-and-6 and gained 29 yards after the catch, carrying Alan Ball with him into the end zone. On one of Bridgewater's few shots downfield, he connected with Wallace for 34 yards on a crossing route. Ever the speed demon, Wallace refused to call his longest catch of the year a downfield shot. "I'm used to going 80 (yards)," he said with mock indignation. "That's a little different. Baby steps, baby -- you've got to do what you've got to do. You've got to take it how you can get it."

Running backs

Notes: McKinnon has only played more than 19 snaps once this season -- against the Seahawks, when he got 22 with the Vikings trailing for much of the second half. McKinnon and Asiata got some extra work with Peterson missing some time with a sprained left ankle, but the Vikings seemed to have carved out a role for McKinnon as a receiver, flexing him out on his first reception (a 25-yard gain in the first quarter).

Tight ends

Notes: The Vikings had at least two tight ends on the field for 25 of their 36 run attempts, according to ESPN Stats and Info. They had trouble clearing big holes for Peterson as Rudolph got stood up at the line of scrimmage on several occasions, but all three tight ends have played enough, both as blockers and receivers, that they figure to be heavily involved down the stretch. Rudolph caught two passes, a 12-yarder and a nine-yarder.


Notes: In addition to his four touchdown passes, Bridgewater became the first Vikings quarterback since Fran Tarkenton (in the team's inaugural game in 1961) to throw for that many TDs and add a rushing touchdown. He saw space between Brandon Fusco and Joe Berger open up on a 3rd-and-9 and leaped for a touchdown, crashing into Tracy Porter as he broke the plane. "I thought the guy was going to dive at my legs or something; that’s why I left my feet," Bridgewater said. "It was just great to come away with some points in that situation."

Offensive line:

Notes: Bridgewater was pressured on a third of his drop-backs according to ESPN Stats and Info, but only took one sack. That came when Willie Young rushed around Kalil's outside shoulder, but even then Bridgewater had time to roll to his right before Young grabbed his ankles. Of the group, Clemmings probably had the toughest day; he allowed four hurries according to Pro Football Focus.