Teddy Bridgewater proves Saints can survive without Drew Brees

Kamara has ultimate confidence in Bridgewater (1:42)

Alvin Kamara tells Scott Van Pelt that he and the Saints are extremely confident in Teddy Bridgewater to lead the team in the absence of Drew Brees. (1:42)

SEATTLE -- Yes, of course, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater did his popular “bike life” dance in the New Orleans Saints' locker room after his first victory in nearly four years as a starting quarterback.

“They forced me to do it,” Bridgewater said of the dance move he became known for during postgame celebrations last year. “I was trying to keep my cool. But [teammates Craig Robertson and Marcus Williams] forced me to.”

It was Bridgewater’s own emotions, however, that led him to deliver a message to all of his teammates after their resilient 33-27 victory at Seattle in their first game without injured starting QB Drew Brees.

“I told the guys when we came in after the game, ‘Just cherish these moments. Because you never know when it can be taken away from you,’” said Bridgewater, who missed nearly two full seasons after suffering a devastating knee injury with the Minnesota Vikings in the summer of 2016.

“I’m grateful to have this opportunity, and I just wanted to make the best of it.”

He did a lot more than that.

Bridgewater proved that the Saints’ season isn’t sunk just because Brees is expected to miss about six weeks with a thumb injury. In fact, they’re now back in sole possession of first place in the NFC South at 2-1.

The schedule doesn’t exactly lighten up now. The Saints are hosting the 3-0 Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night and will have road trips to Jacksonville and Chicago in October. But one would have guessed that Bridgewater’s first start -- in one of the NFL’s loudest venues -- would be his most difficult.

Bridgewater didn’t exactly fill up the stat sheet (19-of-27 for 177 yards, two touchdowns). But he stayed out of trouble, with zero turnovers and zero sacks. And once he settled into the game, he did a brilliant job of relying on one of the best playmaking duos in the NFL in running back Alvin Kamara and wide receiver Michael Thomas.

Bridgewater’s first touchdown drive was a two-minute drill before halftime that was sparked by a third-and-5 completion to Thomas.

“It just took for me to realize that, ‘Man, I have one of the best wide receivers in the NFL out here and I get to throw the ball to him whenever I feel like it,’” Bridgewater said. “Just use your guys. You watch Alvin make plays all day. You watch Mike when you throw it to him, it’s a for-sure catch.”

That drive ended with a 29-yard screen pass to Kamara, who was a monster on Sunday with 161 yards from scrimmage, two TDs and countless broken tackles.

“He’s like a human joystick,” Bridgewater said of Kamara. “Give him the ball and he’s spinning, he’s juking, he’s bouncing off of guys. And as a quarterback when you can throw him a screen and just watch the play happen, it’s like, ‘Man, this guy, he’s a bad man.’”

Bridgewater’s more-solid-than-spectacular formula probably looked awfully familiar to those who watched him early in his career with Minnesota. And it works a lot better when you’re playing with a lead -- New Orleans scored touchdowns on special teams and defense in the first half Sunday.

But he did lead the Vikings to an 11-5 record and the playoffs with this same style of play in just his second NFL season in 2015.

And it certainly fits a loaded Saints roster that no longer needs the quarterback to do everything, since the team has built one of the NFL’s best offensive lines and a solid defense.

“I was proud of the way he played,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “He’s someone, if you really followed his career, he has kind of won wherever he’s been.”

Bridgewater, 26, struggled a bit in his early cameos with the Saints -- in Week 17 last year when they rested some of their starters, in this preseason, and last week when he got thrown into the fire after Brees’ injury against the Rams.

But with a full week to prepare, Bridgewater looked more decisive on Sunday. He wasn’t holding the ball as long, and his timing was better, as he hit more receivers in stride.

“That just goes back to me being me and just playing the game the way that I know how to play it,” said Bridgewater, who insisted that he never lacked confidence and was “sure” he had this kind of performance in him.

“I’ve been sure since I stepped back on the field [late in the 2017 season],” Bridgewater said.

It's clear that Bridgewater’s teammates and coaches gravitate toward him. There’s a reason they traded a third-round draft pick to acquire him last year -- then re-upped by making him the highest-paid backup in the NFL this offseason with a one-year deal worth $7.25 million, plus incentives.

“I’ve been saying it all week, he’s a leader. He has stripes in this league. He’s done it before,” Kamara said. “This is his opportunity. He stepped up.”

The only thing Bridgewater couldn’t fully control Sunday was his emotions.

He told CBS’ Tracy Wolfson that he shed tears before the game. And he got a little choked up while talking about it afterward too.

“This morning when I woke up, I told myself, ‘Man, no matter what happens, I’m a winner,’” Bridgewater said. “And we all talk about winning on the football field, but I feel like I’m a winner in life. Because I always try not to make it about me, but I just think about the process that I had to go through to get here and all the ones who believed in me.

“And then when I’m out there on the football field and we’re able to win a football game like that, my emotions were at an all-time high.”