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Teddy Bridgewater steady in successes, stoic under pressure

Teddy Bridgewater is 16 starts into his NFL career.

He has eight wins and eight losses attached to his record.

Bridgewater has thrown two touchdowns and two interceptions in four games this season but hasn't been demonstrative in any situation.

Instead of "even Steven," the Vikings have "steady Teddy."

Each week presents an opportunity for Bridgewater to further tilt the stats in his favor for the benefit of the Vikings. It also presents a challenge from an opponent determined to keep that from happening.

Defenses may use different personnel groupings or alignments within a game. The Vikings will win some plays; defenders will win others.

There's a good chance Bridgewater will have a stoic countenance in either instance.

"I'm one of those guys who never tries to get too high, never tries to get too low because I know I play a position where the eyes are always on you," Bridgewater said. "If you throw a touchdown and you're excited and happy on the sideline, the camera is on you. If you throw an interception, the camera goes right to the quarterback. They want to see you throwing your helmet, slapping Gatorade bottles, and I'm not that guy. I kind of hold it all in, go on the sideline, put a towel over my head and then hit the reset button and I'm ready to go."

Don't mistake the stone-like demeanor for someone who doesn't care deeply. It's just part of who he is: capable of poise under pressure and packing potential that helped him set or tie 91 franchise records for a rookie quarterback in 2014.

"Teddy is a warrior. He's a positive guy, no matter what happens," left guard Brandon Fusco said. "He's going to forget about the last play and move onto the next. If one of us messes up, we'll be up there in the next play to protect him and do our job. We have all the trust in him. He's a great quarterback."

Stability at the position is one of the best attributes a football team can have and must have to build around for prolonged success. Bridgewater was speaking of coaches and teammates when he said before the bye that he thinks the Vikings have laid a "solid foundation" for the future. He's been a key part of that, even though he prefers to talk about teammates' contributions.

"We know there's still a lot of room for improvement, but I think we've laid a solid foundation here with a group of guys that's resilient and a physical group of guys that are just going to try to hand it to our opponents."

After a disappointing opener, the Vikings rallied with consecutive controlling wins, before traveling to Denver. The Vikings overcame deficits of 13 at one point in the first half and 10 in the fourth quarter to tie the game with 5:11 remaining.

"He's continuing to progress," Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said. "That's a sign of a young guy maturing. If we can get over that, just push it over the edge a little more. Teddy is probably the most unselfish football player on this team. If he's only going to throw the ball 18 times, he could care less if we're going to win. That's the mentality we're trying to get with all our football players."

Despite taking seven sacks against the Broncos, Bridgewater finished 27-of-41 passing for 269 yards and a rating of 92.4, which is the highest against Denver this season. Bridgewater said some missed assignments occurred to cause the offense's breakdowns in pass protection, but he also saw some good elements from an offensive line that has one starter playing in the same spot as it did a year ago.

"You don't want to get hit that many times, but our guys work extremely hard," Bridgewater said. "Ever since training camp those guys have been just grinding away. They have a great group of leaders in that room, so those guys are doing a great job of just continuing to trust each other, trust in the coaching staff and just go out there and play football."

Despite taking three sacks in the first half, and four in the second, Bridgewater locked in with receivers. He completed 13 of 15 passes, which included one that was purposefully thrown out of bounds, for 131 yards after halftime. Bridgewater also scrambled twice to convert a pair of third-and-10 plays that were best helped by his determination.

"We knew Denver was a physical team, a fast defense and that they had some pass rushers, but at my position, you can't feel those things," Bridgewater said. "You just have to continue to go out there and play football."

Including the 12 starts he made last season and the first four this year, Bridgewater is 324-of-497 passing (65.2 percent complete) for 3,543 yards (7.13 per attempt). He's thrown for 16 touchdowns and been intercepted 14 times for a passer rating of 85.1.

In comparison, Alex Smith Sunday's starting QB for the Chiefs, was 228-of-403 (56.6 percent complete) for 2,502 yards (6.21 per attempt) with 10 touchdowns, 18 interceptions and a rating of 64.8 in his first 16 starts with San Francisco. Broncos QB and five-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning, meanwhile, was 326-of-575 (56.7 percent) for 3,739 yards (6.50 per attempt) with 26 TDs, 28 INTs and a 71.2 rating as a rookie with Indianapolis.

This year, Bridgewater said he'd love to hit on 70 percent of his passes, a mark only accomplished by four players: Drew Brees (record of 71.2 in 2011 and 70.6 in 2009), Ken Anderson (70.6 in 1982) and Hall of Famers Steve Young (70.3 in 1994) and Joe Montana (70.2 in 1989).

Multiple factors could help him reach that goal: his intelligence paired with a greater command of the offense to know the best options for where to go with the ball earlier in the play, the ability to adjust his delivery for specific throws, help from receiving targets, a voice of experience from veteran backup Shaun Hill and his ability to pass the ball with touch that Mike Wallace and Jarius Wright both described as a "crazy."

Wallace arrived this offseason via a trade with Miami, where he caught 140 passes and 15 touchdowns in two seasons after logging 235 catches and 32 TDs in four regular seasons with Pittsburgh. Wallace said Bridgewater's passes are similar to Ben Roethlisberger, who set the NFL record for rookie completion percentage in 2004 at 66.4 percent, two spots above Bridgewater's mark.

Protection and solid but quick decisions will be important for the Vikings offense against a Chiefs team that includes 2014 sacks leader Justin Houston (22) and Tamba Hali, who has 80.5 career sacks, 7.0 of which have come in the past 20 games.

Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner has been high on Bridgewater's ability to make decisions and handle multiple types of situations in calling him a "guy that knows how to play the game."

While preparing to broadcast the season opener, ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, who played 13 NFL seasons, told's Mike Wobschall that what matters most for a quarterback "is how you process, decision-making, how you handle big environments."

"There's a lot of pressures on the position, and I think Teddy has been conditioned to handle those incredibly well," Dilfer said. "He's a great processor. You can put a lot on his plate, he's always going to give you a chance to win, and when you are looking for a franchise quarterback, that's what you're looking for more than anything else, a guy that is going to give you a chance to win because of his skill set but mainly because of his decision making."

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