EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's movement through the pocket helped the rookie go through his progressions in a 19-13 overtime win by Minnesota at Tampa Bay last week.
He said the ability to move while reading defenses helps him avoid pressure to extend plays and survey options for where to go with the football.
"I think it just comes natural," Bridgewater said. "It's one of those deals where something isn't there, trust your legs, trust your mobility, trust your talents and try to take over.
"It's one of those deals where if something isn't open down the field, the play isn't over," he added. "I try to find my check down, if my check down isn't there, I know that I have the ability to keep the play alive by running, something that I'm comfortable doing."
Bridgewater's sacks taken have decreased from 8.0 against Detroit to 5.0 at Buffalo to 1.0 last week at Tampa Bay, and his passer rating has improved each of the past three weeks from 41.3 against the Lions to 56.1 against the Bills to 81.5 versus the Buccaneers.
"We talk about being sacked eight times, five times and one time," Bridgewater said. "Our offensive line is doing a great job, and I think that I've been struggling, holding on to the football a lot and causing those guys to have to block for extra seconds. The coaches have been on me to just get rid of the ball and play faster. The past three weeks, each week we've made those improvements."
Bridgewater assessed the defense several times during the game before opting for a safe check down to assure positive yardage or avoid a loss on a play.
"I thought he did well," Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said. "He came off of several throws and went to other places so I thought he did well."
Offensive coordinator Norv Turner said he thought the pocket improved against Tampa Bay, and the next step to building on that will be to capitalize on plays that went down as near misses instead of long gains against the Bucs.
"I think Teddy's been outstanding in the pocket all along," Turner said. "We had a better pocket, so it helped us. The thing that we did in the game, we made plays that were there, but there were a bunch of plays that we were just off. I told our guys, we've gotten better over the last two weeks and we were about that far off on five or six plays, a number of them would have been plays over 20 yards and we need just to keep getting a week better, a week better, so when those opportunities present themselves we make those plays. That game could have been different. It could have been a little easier for us if we'd made some of those plays."
BLITZ PREP: Bridgewater and the Vikings (3-5) are preparing to host the Redskins (3-5) at noon (CT) Sunday. He said the blitz-happy Washington defense that uses a base 3-4 front is "very exotic."
"You never know what you're going to get. You just have to continue to know their tendencies and study the film," Bridgewater said. "They're able to do different things to cause havoc in your pass protection schemes, but I'm pretty sure we're going to put together a scheme that's going to allow us to play fast and think less."
ESPN's Ben Goessling reported that Bridgewater has been blitzed 29.9 percent on dropbacks in his four starts, and that Washington's defense has rushed with five or more defenders 42.4 percent of the time, which is the second highest rate in the NFL this season.
Zimmer, who was called the "Blitz Doctor" by Washington Head Coach Jay Gruden, said Bridgewater sees "quite a few" in practices.
"They give you a lot of different looks and so we have to make sure that we're all on the same page really as far as what we're doing," Zimmer said. "Teddy is seeing a lot of blitzes now from us. Through training camp we gave every possible thing there was, and he handles them well. We'll just prepare like we always will."
RG3 TIMES 3: Repots have Washington QB Robert Griffin III returning to the lineup this week from a Week 2 ankle injury to face the Vikings for a third straight season. Griffin, the No. 2 overall pick in 2012, has split contests with Minnesota.
He completed 17 of 22 passes for 182 yards with one touchdown and one interception while adding 13 rushes for 138 yards and two TDs on the ground as a rookie in a 38-26 Washington win, and went 24-for-37 for 281 yards with three touchdowns, zero interceptions and 44 rushing yards on seven carries in a 34-27 win by Minnesota in 2013.
"He's a special quarterback. He can run, so you've got to treat him like an extra running back," Vikings DE Everson Griffen said. "We've just got to hit him. You've got to hit every quarterback that you go against and you've got to keep him in the pocket, but he likes to hold onto the ball a little more than (Colt) McCoy. At the same time, we've just got to back there and do our job and be in the right place at the right time and we can win this game."
DT Linval Joseph, a new addition to the Vikings this season, played Griffin a total of three times as a member of the New York Giants, who took two of three from the Redskins when Griffin played.
"He's a nightmare. He's fast, he's smart, he can throw the ball, and that's what you don't want," Joseph said. "You want a quarterback who's going to sit there and take it, but he runs and makes plays. Hopefully he'll be rusty, or he might come out and be better than he was. He's had five weeks to get back strong and mentally learn the game, so we don't know what's going to happen."
NO JUMPING FOR JOY: Minnesota's Griffen on Thursday was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month for October. Griffen recorded at least one sack in all four games and tied his personal single-game record with 3.0 at Buffalo when he also forced a fumble. Griffen said the award reflects on the work his teammates have done.
"It all starts with the team. I couldn't go out there and do it myself," Griffen said. "Sharrif (Floyd), Linval, Shamar (Stephen), (Brian Robison), Tom Johnson, the whole defensive line, we've been playing well. We're second in the league in sacks and we've just got to keep it coming. You can't do it all by yourself, but at the end of the day, I'm happy with the award and it's time to get back to work. I've got to go out and try to get it the next month and keep on building on that and don't let this be the ending for me and let it make me hungrier."
Griffen has done a "Sack Daddy" dance to celebrate each time he's taken down a QB. He slides to the left, then slides to the right, but doesn't leave the ground as he finishes the move. He was asked about two players (Detroit's Stephen Tulloch and Chicago's Justin Houston) suffering season-ending injuries after leaping celebrations this season.
"I don't jump up and do my sack dance, but if I did, I'd have to fix it or something because it's wild to see that," Griffen said. "I guess their bodies relax when they're jumping up and then they're coming down on it. It's unfortunate, and I wish those guys a speedy recovery. It's a habit. I'm not jumping. I'm just sliding to the left, sliding to the right and celebrating, happy to be making a play for my team."
PARTICIPATION: Brian Robison (glute), Jabari Price (hamstring), Josh Robinson (ankle), Sharrif Floyd (ankle/knee), and Chase Ford (foot) were limited Thursday. Gerald Hodges (hamstring) and Antone Exum Jr. (ankle/shoulder) participated fully. Zimmer said Kyle Rudolph (abdomen/groin) is a couple of weeks away from returning to action.
For Washington: Ryan Clark (ankle/shoulder) and Trent Williams (knee) were limited for the second straight day. Ryan Kerrigan (wrist), Trent Murphy (knee), Tracy Porter (hamstring), Perry Riley Jr. (knee), Keenan Robinson (shoulder) and Griffin were listed as full participants.
WEATHER: The temperature at Winter Park was 45 degrees Fahrenheit at the start of practice with slight winds and a cloud-filled sky.