Less Is More for Minnesota Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IDecember 1, 2015

Nov 29, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) rolls out of the pocket against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half at the Georgia Dome. The Vikings defeated the Falcons 20-10. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The box score from the Minnesota Vikings' 20-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons probably lies about the impact contributed from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. 

No, the Vikings second-year quarterback didn't throw for over 300 yards. He didn't produce a touchdown, and his big mistake—a first-half interception in the end zone—cost Minnesota points. Bridgewater completed 20 mostly unspectacular passes for 174 yards, the sixth time this season he's finished a game under 200. 

But the Vikings are now 6-0 in those games. 

For Bridgewater and this currently assembled version of the Vikings, less is more from the quarterback position. With the best running back in football and a defense capable of stopping anyone, Bridgewater's impact can't be measured in volume statistics. 

You have to dig deeper. Sunday's win was a perfect example.

Teddy Bridgewater: Wins vs. Losses in 2015
Wins (8)Losses (3)
Comp. %63.668.2
Passing Yards/Game185.5265.3
Passer Rating82.391.3
Rushing Yards7482
Vikings: 8-3 in 2015

On Minnesota's scoring drive in the first quarter, Bridgewater completed five of seven passes for 67 yards. All five completions produced first downs, and one of the misses—a short throw dropped by Adrian Peterson over the middle of the field—probably should have ended in a touchdown. He also gave receiver Mike Wallace a catch opportunity in the red zone that resulted in a defensive pass interference penalty on third down. A play later, Peterson plunged in from one yard out to give the Vikings a 7-0 lead. 

Peterson got the glory of the score, but Bridgewater was the one who managed his way down the field to set up the touchdown. 

A quarter later, he shook off his interception and put the Vikings into field-goal range before the half. 

After taking over at his own 25-yard line with 79 seconds left, Bridgewater completed six passes, including three to tight end Kyle Rudolph. The Vikings twice converted on third down to set up a 51-yard kick, but Blair Walsh's attempt missed. The 11-play, 42-yard drive resulted in nothing, but it was still the kind of calm march Bridgewater has been able to create in two-minute scenarios early in his career.  

Nov 29, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) passes to running back Adrian Peterson (28) against the Atlanta Falcons during the first quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings came out of halftime wanting to ride Peterson. It was a strong plan. The NFL's leading rusher gained 37 yards to put Minnesota in the red zone on the offense's first drive of the third quarter. But things went haywire when Peterson was stopped for no gain on first down. Bridgewater hit Stefon Diggs for five yards on second down, but offensive coordinator Norv Turner took the ball out of his quarterback's hands on third down, calling a simple run to backup running back Matt Asiata. 

Did Turner just not trust Bridgewater after his earlier interception in the end zone? Or was he so confident in his running game and the Vikings defense that he called a running play with a backup? Either way, it was a miscalculation. Bridgewater finished 5-of-6 passing for 43 yards and three first downs on third down against the Falcons. He deserved a chance to make a play for his offense, but the Vikings are built in such a way that three points is still a major win.

The young quarterback made good on his chances in the fourth quarter. 

After a Falcons punt, Bridgewater led the Vikings 69 yards in 14 plays. He hit Jarius Wright for eight yards and a first down on 3rd-and-4 early in the drive and later connected with Peterson for 11 yards to once again move the sticks. Overall, he completed five of six passes for 31 yards to help set up Walsh's 39-yard field goal. 

The Vikings scored only 20 points, and Bridgewater was partly to blame. His interception cost Minnesota at least three points. But he also completed over 70 percent of his passes (with three throwaways), took zero sacks and put the Vikings in position to score on six of the offense's eight possessions (not counting the final kneeldowns). Of his 20 completions, 10 produced first downs, and another three of the Vikings' passing plays moved the sticks via penalties. 

Volume stats will never do Bridgewater justice. He plays on a team that runs the ball more than 30 other offenses, and his defense is currently second in points allowed per game. The passing game is important but far from vital to what the Vikings want to accomplish every week. 

David Goldman/Associated Press

It's not a coincidence Minnesota is 5-0 when Bridgewater attempts fewer than 30 passes and just 2-3 when he throws for over 200 yards. When he's asked to gain big chunks of yards through the air, something has probably gone wrong with the way the Vikings want to win games. In other words, it's when Minnesota is trailing.

Quarterbacks are often judged by volume numbers. It's a product of fantasy football and the evolution of the passing game in today's NFL. But in some rare cases, like Bridgewater's, stats can't tell the whole story. 

Bridgewater doesn't produce big numbers because he isn't asked to produce big numbers. The Vikings don't need him to because they have a ingrained method of winning games in 2015. Call that an excuse, but it's far more in touch with reality than what the box score will tell you. 

Zach Kruse covers the Vikings for Bleacher Report. 

Follow @zachkruse2


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