EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings garnered a fair amount of preseason attention because of Teddy Bridgewater, their composed second-year quarterback who posted the third-highest completion percentage by a rookie in NFL history last year. But in his first prime-time game, Bridgewater looked uncharacteristically flustered.
He completed 23 of his 32 passes for 231 yards in a 20-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, but posted much of his yardage late in the game and was intercepted on a ball he threw over tight end Kyle Rudolph. Bridgewater was sacked five times and hit three additional times, and while his offensive line struggled in front of him, coach Mike Zimmer also thought Bridgewater held the ball too long at times.
"This is the first time I’ve really seen him like that. Usually he’s got so much composure but he did seem that way," Zimmer said. "A couple times (he) didn’t pull the trigger when he had opportunities to, and even when it’s third down, he goes and slides and almost doesn’t get the first down instead of going headfirst and getting the first down. Things like that that are not typical of what he’s done and what we’ve done in practice as well.
"He had good practices last week. Heck, when we came back (from a day off) on Thursday, he was humming the ball and he was pumped up. You could tell. I even walked over to (backup quarterback) Shaun Hill and said, ‘Man, he’s humming it today isn’t he?’ He said, ‘Yeah, he’s pretty fired up.’"
Bridgewater was far from the only player who had a subpar night in a game where the Vikings allowed 230 rushing yards, converted just one third down, failed to capitalize on a blocked field goal and a fumbled punt and were the only team not to score a touchdown in Week 1.
"I tried to downplay everything going into the ballgame -- “Monday Night Football,” first game of the year -- because I knew these guys would be excited to play," Zimmer said. "And I knew that going into San Francisco might be a little bit of a buzzsaw initially, because of all the bad things that were being said about them throughout the course of the offseason. So I purposely didn’t talk a lot (or) try to get them excited about it because I knew going into the game that we were excited to play. And then that’s why I say maybe we didn’t handle the situation the correct way. And then defensively we got tired. We did some extremely uncharacteristic things. I told the team at halftime, I said, ‘I don’t even know who’s out there today. I don’t know who this team is. I’ve never seen this side of us before. Never.’
The Vikings will play their home opener on Sunday against the Detroit Lions, as the NFC North rivals both try to avoid 0-2 starts. Bridgewater's first game against the Lions saw him get sacked eight times in a 17-3 loss last October -- after which Zimmer criticized the Vikings' focus -- but the coach said he didn't think Bridgewater would turn in another subpar game.
"I do not think that Teddy’s going to throw another clunker," Zimmer said. "I’ve never seen that side of him. I think it’s probably just an enigma that this happened. But we’re going to have to find out with what we see."