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After Further Review: Bridgewater's Passes to TEs, RBs

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater demonstrated poise under pressure and an understanding of when and where to go with the ball when the seas got too rough Sunday at Tampa Bay.

Bridgewater led the Vikings on a drive that resulted in a game-tying field goal as regulation ended. The Vikings won 19-13 in overtime on Anthony Barr's fumble recovery and 27-yard return for a touchdown.

Bridgewater's composure on the final possession included completions to four teammates. All told, he distributed the ball to seven different teammates Sunday. He had 13 completions to receivers, six to tight ends and five to running backs. Bridgewater was 11-for-12 on passes to tight ends and running backs for 86 yards, and each scoring drive by the Vikings offense included at least one completion to TE Chase Ford, who set career highs of six catches for 61 yards one week after tight ends did not record a catch against the Bills.

Ford said Monday he was happy to help the offense and is hopeful that productivity in Sunday's game will create opportunities for teammates.

"It definitely opens it up because if it gets to where they keep throwing the ball down to me all the time, sooner or later one of those safeties is going to try to sneak up to make the tackle or try to make a play on it, and then you never know what will happen," Ford said. "That's when one of the receivers could pop open so it's always good to be able to help guys."

The utilization of multiple position groups in the passing game helped the Vikings in different types of scenarios. Sometimes it was capitalizing on the middle of the field in the hurry-up offense (Minnesota could work that part of the field because it had timeouts on the tying drive); other times it was to mitigate situations where the Vikings had fallen behind the chains; and others were patient checkdowns when coverage didn't allow another option.

"It's just how the offense functions," veteran center John Sullivan said. "You need all the available options you can have. It's up to (offensive coordinator) Norv (Turner) and our coaching staff on who will be out on routes, who's going to be in to protect and how they think they can attack a given defense so there's value in, sometimes you have five in protection, sometimes you have eight. It's just what the coaches think will help us win."

Here's a look at Minnesota's pass attempts to tight ends and running backs against the Bucs:

First possession: On second-and-9, Bridgewater hits Ford for a gain of 7, to set up third-and-2 that he converted with a scramble. On third-and-1, a pass to Jerick McKinnon loses one, but it prevented a larger loss from a sack and allowed a 56-yard field goal attempt.

Third possession: On second-and-14, Bridgewater finds Matt Asiata for a 10-yard gain to set up third-and-4. The gain lessened the blow dealt by the Buccaneers on the following play when Tampa Bay recorded its only sack of the game for a 6-yard loss that forced a punt.

Fourth possession: On third-and-5, Bridgewater checks down to Asiata for a gain of 2. It didn't move the chains, but it did allow the Vikings to pin the Bucs in at their own 13-yard line and continue winning the field position battle.

Fifth possession: On third-and-10, Bridgewater to Asiata for 9 to move the ball to midfield. Minnesota was able to pin Tampa Bay inside its own 20 again, force a three-and-out and get the ball back with 59 seconds left in the first half.

Sixth possession: On first-and-10 from the Minnesota 34, Bridgewater to Ford gains 19 to move the ball across midfield. The next play, Bridgewater to Ford gains 11 to move to the Tampa Bay 36 (on a quick decision by the QB). Minnesota takes its final timeout before Bridgewater gained another 8 yards with a completion to WR Cordarrelle Patterson and killed the clock with five seconds left to allow Blair Walsh to kick a 46-yard field goal for a 3-0 halftime lead.

Eighth possession: On second-and-15, a pass to Ford gains 9 to move into the red zone for the first time and set up third-and-6 at the Tampa Bay 17. Bridgewater then made arguably his best throw of the day on the next play to find WR Greg Jennings for a touchdown.

Final possession: On first-and-10 with 34 seconds remaining and two timeouts left, a pass to Ford gains 3. On second-and-7, a pass targeted for Asiata falls incomplete (Bridgewater was hit as he threw the ball). On third-and-7 with 22 seconds and one timeout left, Bridgewater to Ford gains 12 yards to move to the Tampa Bay 19. Minnesota takes its final timeout with four seconds remaining before Walsh ties the game with a 38-yard field goal.

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