View the top 20 images of Teddy Bridgewater from the 2014 season.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The negative of a season-ending injury to Matt Cassel in Week 3 extended the opportunity for 2014 first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater to play, and his immediate leadership, growth and development at quarterback became a positive for the Vikings.
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Head Coach Mike Zimmer opened the position to competition in camp and opted for the veteran Cassel, who led a 34-6 win at St. Louis before the Vikings struggled in a 30-7 loss against New England. Cassel suffered a foot injury that required surgery at New Orleans, and Bridgewater debuted in relief.
The rookie made his first start Sept. 28 and led Minnesota to a 41-28 victory, his first of four on the season that involved overcoming fourth-quarter deficits. He set team records for passing yards (317), passer rating (98.9) and completions (19) for a Vikings QB making his first career start but suffered an ankle injury the following week.
Christian Ponder started in place of Bridgewater at Green Bay, as the Vikings (7-9) were one of five teams to have three quarterbacks attempt at least 40 passes this season: Arizona (11-5), Houston (9-7), Tennessee (2-14) and Washington (4-12).
Detroit's aggressive defense greeted Bridgewater the following week, and it was the only time the Vikings finished a game with single-digit scoring the rest of the season.
Bridgewater led come-from-behind wins at Tampa Bay, against Washington and against the New York Jets when he correctly identified an "all-out blitz" at the line of scrimmage and checked into a wide receiver screen that resulted in an 87-yard catch-and-run by Jarius Wright in overtime.
Zimmer said he believes Bridgewater has the skills, demeanor and work ethic that can enable him to play the sport's toughest position for a long period of time.
Bridgewater set franchise records for passer rating (85.2) and completion percentage (64.4) by a rookie quarterback, and the completion percentage ranks third-highest all-time in the NFL by a rookie behind Ben Roethlisberger (66.4 in 2004) and Robert Griffin III (65.6 in 2012).
He said his favorite experience of all was "lining up in victory formation" at the end of the season finale.
"We were able to for the first time in the Chicago game, and that's something we want to continue to do each game instead of being in the two-minute situation and scrambling around and trying to win the game, but we do understand in this league, sometimes the game is going to come down to the last second and we have to put together a drive to score a touchdown or kick a game-winning field goal," Bridgewater said. "We understand those situations and are glad they came up this year. We were able to learn a lot and the type of players we have in those situations speaks volumes and shows we have a team that's resilient and loves playing for one another."
GM RICK SPIELMAN'S TAKE ON BRIDGEWATER'S FIRST SEASON: "You saw him go out, and you saw him, as he got more comfortable with the scheme, running a no-huddle offense, being able to make the checks at the line of scrimmage, understanding what this is all about. Every week you go out there and say, 'Boy, did he just get better at that?' Teddy works extremely hard. It's very important to him. The biggest thing that people had a little bit of a knock on was, 'Was he going to be able to lead an NFL franchise, lead those players down in that locker room?,' and there was no question from the first day he walked in here, just in his approach and demeanor and the way he handles all the adversity, everybody to a man down in that locker room wants to play for him."