Bridgewater finishing season on a high note
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Minnesota Vikings have endured quite a season, losing star running back Adrian Peterson to legal issues, three-fifths of their offensive line to injury and never really threatening in the NFC playoff picture after midseason.
In the end, all the drama off the field and the struggles on it may be worthwhile for first-year coach Mike Zimmer.
That's because Teddy Bridgewater is finishing the season on a high note and appears ready to put an end to the franchise's seemingly endless search for a long-term solution at quarterback.
The rookie first-round draft pick has completed more than 70 percent of his passes in four straight games. He has topped 300 yards in two of those games and thrown seven touchdowns and four interceptions - one on a desperation pass at the halftime buzzer - in that stretch.
It's a promising trend that backs up the faith Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner have expressed in him all season.
''Early in the year I just struggled and I wasn't playing good football,'' Bridgewater said after a 37-35 loss in Miami on Sunday.
''Norv Turner said something to us a couple of weeks back and he told us that we were going to be playing the best football in December. If you think about it we've been playing pretty good for the most part.''
Bridgewater was pressed into duty sooner than the Vikings had planned when Matt Cassel was lost for the season with a foot injury against the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 21.
Bridgewater threw for 317 yards in his first career start to beat the Atlanta Falcons, but struggled with inaccuracy, especially on throws down the field, through the first half of the season.
He threw three interceptions in a loss to the Lions and was just 21 of 37 (57 percent) while missing several wide open receivers in a 24-21 loss to the Packers on Nov. 23, typical issues for a rookie quarterback.
Since then, he's been much sharper.
He went 19 for 26 for 259 yards with two touchdowns and an interception against the Dolphins' fourth-ranked pass defense on Sunday and continues to impress coaches and teammates with his unflappable demeanor.
Turner opened his weekly news conference last week with an impassioned defense of Bridgewater, lauding his ability to keep playing in a makeshift offense that includes a No. 1 receiver in Charles Johnson who was signed off the Cleveland Browns' practice squad in September.
''It's pretty incredible to me what he's done, how he's handled it, the things he's gotten done and what he's really done is made everyone around him better and that's a quality that you're looking for,'' Turner said.
The Vikings (6-9) host the Bears (5-10) on Sunday in the season finale, one more chance for Bridgewater and the offense to build some momentum going into the offseason.
''I think the last five games you can kind of tell our offense is playing a lot better and we're starting to play well in Norv's system,'' left tackle Matt Kalil said. ''He's a great offensive coordinator. Once you kind of get things clicking on all cylinders, it could be a great offense.''
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL