In Minnesota, it's Teddy's ballgame
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - A season that was going nowhere fast suddenly had a renewed sense of purpose when Matt Cassel was carted off the field in the second quarter of a 20-9 loss to the Saints at the Superdome.
In an unexpected blink and 13 games before it ideally was scheduled to start, "Teddy Time" officially began at the 12:15 mark of the second quarter. Three quarters later, the Vikings still had lost their second straight game by double digits, but the poise shown by rookie first-round draft pick Teddy Bridgewater could grow into a ray of light in a dark season that probably will be forever remembered as the year Adrian Peterson played his final snap for the Vikings.
No, Bridgewater didn't lead the Vikings back to victory from a 13-3 deficit upon replacing Cassel, who has multiple fractures in his left foot.
He didn't direct a touchdown drive, either.
But he didn't turn the ball over and showed veteran awareness in the red zone, which allowed the Vikings to close the gap to 13-9 on a pair of field goals.
And, oh yeah, he did this behind an underachieving offensive line against a Rob Ryan defense playing in the deafening Superdome during the Saints home opener.
"I wasn't nervous at all," Bridgewater said. "I mean, this is where I wanted to be. Unfortunately, the way it happened wasn't the way I expected it to. I was able to go out there and relax and look at my teammates and have them trust me and they all told me not to change. Don't change the game plan, just go out there and play football."
Cassel will be out for an extended amount of time and probably won't regain the starting job even after he's healthy. With Peterson on a special exempt list as he faces charges of child abuse in Texas, Bridgewater is now the face of the franchise.
Sunday, with limited reps in the week leading up to the game, Bridgewater posted an 83.3 passer rating, completing 12 of 20 passes for 150 yards. He also showed better-than-expected running ability, running six times for 27 yards, including an alert dart for a first down on a third-down red zone play.
"He will be ready (for the Falcons game on Sunday)," coach Mike Zimmer said. "It will help to go back home. It will help to get all of the reps next week."
Zimmer was then asked how good he thinks Bridgewater will be. Without hesitation, the coach voiced what the Vikings have been saying ever since they began their intensive pre-draft search to identify the franchise quarterback that has alluded them for years.
"I think he'll be real good," Zimmer said.
In a season that doesn't appear headed toward the playoffs, at least the Vikings can begin working on the Bridewater era.