Last weekend, in my preview to the Vikings’ second preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, I spoke on Matt Cassel, and particularly on why he was ahead of rookie first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater in the competition for the Vikings’ starting quarterback job. At the end of the article, I stated that in order for Cassel to hold on to his lead, he would need to go out against Arizona and play very well against a tough Cardinals defense. Cassel exceeded expectations with a fantastic performance.
Cassel went 12-of-16 for 153 yards with his biggest highlight of the night being an impressive 51 yard touchdown pass to Kyle Rudolph. He even rushed for 30 yards on three carries, showing his ability to take advantage of open running lanes left by the defense. Overall, Cassel took charge of the offense, displaying confidence and poise. His decision making was nearly perfect, as he had no trouble moving the offense while he was on the field.
Although Cassel managed to have quite an impressive game, Bridgewater matched his performance with a fantastic outing of his own, going 16-of-20 for 177 yards and two touchdowns, as well a completed two-point conversion pass to Jarius Wright. While both quarterbacks had tremendous games, it was Teddy who stole the show at the end of the night. With the Vikings losing 28-24 and 1:07 seconds left in the game, Bridgewater engineered an 83-yard drive ending with an end zone fade to wide receiver Rodney Smith for the game-winning touchdown.
Rodney Smith’s game-winning catch
Bridgewater’s pocket presence and ability to go through his progressions against the Cardinals were encouraging to all Vikings fans, who have dealt with underwhelming play from the position for years, excluding Brett Favre’s superb 2009 season.
Bridgewater, like Cassel, made few mistakes against the Cardinals. He was extremely efficient, especially on his game winning drive, where he went five-of-six for 75 yards and a touchdown. One thing that the Vikings really liked about Teddy heading into the 2014 NFL draft was that he was very good under pressure, and he did not fail to disappoint in that aspect last Saturday. According to Pro Football Focus, Bridgewater went 9-of-12 for 113 yards and one touchdown on plays that he was blitzed. For Vikings fans, it felt like Teddy was under pressure on every play of his game-winning drive.
Teddy’s last-minute drive was a situation in which most rookie quarterbacks would be expected to falter somewhat, especially under extreme pressure from the defense. Teddy did not falter, however, as he completely thrived on his last minute drive, taking command of the offense and marching right up the field while making it look easy. Due to Matt Cassel’s outstanding game against the Raiders and Bridgewater’s performance in that same game which can best be described as “pedestrian,” the quarterback competition seemed to be all but over; however, Teddy’s excellent performance against the Cardinals has led to further debate on the matter.
No one will argue that Teddy played an incredible game against the Cardinals, however, many have an issue with the fact that his performance came against a Cardinals defense made-up of third and fourth string players. Cassel was able to put together just as impressive of a performance as Teddy while playing against the starting defense of the team. While this argument is not unjust, it is important to note that Bridgewater was playing with backups on his own side of the ball as well. Even so, Vikings fans are completely within reason to be hesitant on believing that Teddy is worthy of starting simply because of his good performance against backups.
By no means do I believe that Teddy Bridgewater should be the starter based on his play last weekend, however, I do believe that his play at the very least has warranted a longer look at him with the starters in this next preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Mike Zimmer has not named the team’s week one starter yet, so getting Teddy some reps with the starting offense would make sense, especially after his outstanding performance last Saturday.
Now I want to hear from some fans. What do you guys think? Should Teddy be given playing time with the starters against the Chiefs? Or is it simply time to name Matt Cassel the starter and proceed into the season with Teddy as the backup quarterback?