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Bridgewater, Vikings Offense Focused on Opportunities This Offseason

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —Teddy Bridgewater saw the defensive lineman jump and looked for more.

The third-year quarterback knew the Vikings would be awarded a 5-yard offsides penalty, but he also had a shot at capitalizing on a "free play."

He delivered the ball down the middle of the field for a touchdown pass of more than 50 yards.

Yes, it was one snap during the Vikings voluntary organized team activity practices last week, but it also is a sign of Bridgewater looking to further capitalize on opportunities.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said this week that the play — from the pre-snap to the hand clap—shows another layer of development in the quarterback who is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance after an 11-5 mark and NFC North title in 2015.

"We had a hard count," Zimmer said. "One of the guys on defense jumped and we had a play action off of it and he saw the guy jump. He said, 'Got you!' and he saw the safety bite a little bit and just hung it right down the middle of the field about 55 yards and a perfect strike.

"Those are the kind of things I see two years ago or even early last year, I don't think he would have done," Zimmer added. "But there's other plays like that where he sees the safety bite, and to me he just looks more comfortable and confident as well in the things that he's doing."

According to, the Vikings led the league in drawing a defense offside. Minnesota's opponents committed the infraction 15 times that led to 69 yards awarded. Both stats were the best in the NFL.

Quarterbacks have long used the hard count to their benefit, whether it's to gain an extra five yards or take a chance down the field on a free play.

Zimmer said, although deep balls are risky, there is some level of success that could occur. Looking deep when the alternative is accepting a penalty against the opponent takes the risk element out of the reward scenario.

"The percentages on deep ball are not really very good, I don't care who's throwing them," Zimmer said. "It's timing, the arc on the ball, guys are running full speed downfield, but sometimes you get pass interferences and things like that, which are good things, too."

The Vikings drew eight pass interference penalties against opponents (tied for 11th-most in the NFL) in 2015, which resulted in 141 yards. Arizona was first with 18 penalties for 295 yards, Pittsburgh drew 17 for 349, and Green Bay collected 15 for a league-high 384 yards.

Bridgewater threw for 3,231 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, averaging 7.23 yards per attempt, a stat that ranked in the middle among quarterbacks.

Passes beyond 30 yards are an area Bridgewater has said he's focused on this spring. The effort includes plenty of film study from last season.

"It's just finishing throws," Bridgewater said. "[We] put the tape on of last year, and there were a bunch of throws where I probably wasn't finishing the throws, following through and things like that, which would cause the ball to sail."

Time will tell if Bridgewater and the Vikings offense can stretch the defense more this season.

But there's also one stat that matters most to Zimmer — victories.

Bridgewater is 17-11 as a starter and his 17 wins tie him with Brett Favre and Warren Moon for the most regular-season victories by a Vikings quarterback through his first two seasons.

"I still go back to great quarterbacks win and that's the thing that this guy does," Zimmer said. "He's a winner. Whatever it (his record) is, he wins games and to me that's the most important thing.

"There's a lot more to playing quarterback than just throwing the ball through the wall," he added.

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