Had it not been for Dolphins defensive end Terrence Fede’s blocked-punt safety with 41 seconds left that lifted the Dolphins to a 37-35 win over the Vikings, Miami native Teddy Bridgewater’s return home might have been perfect.
“It was tough especially being from the city of Miami because I probably won’t hear the end of it now,” Bridgewater said. “It was a well-fought game, and hats off to the Dolphins. They fought hard and we made too many mistakes to win a game like this on the road. We have to continue to play full games.”
Bridgewater, Minnesota’s rookie quarterback only four years after he graduated from Miami Northwestern High School, played his first game at Sun Life Stadium as a pro, and nearly brought the Vikings back from an eight-point, fourth- quarter deficit Sunday.
Bridgewater completed 19of26 passes for 259 yards, threw two touchdown passes and one interception for a 114.1 passer rating.
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But with the score tied at 35 with 1:05 left in regulation, the Dolphins defense turned up the pressure, forcing Bridgewater to scramble for 2 yards and throw an incomplete pass before being sacked on third-and-8 by Cameron Wake.
Moments later, the potential for perhaps another chance in overtime was taken away when Fede surged through and batted Jeff Locke’s punt through the end zone.
“We wanted to remain aggressive, and we had three timeouts,” Bridgewater said. “We had enough time to put together a drive and maybe get a field goal or score a touchdown. We just didn’t execute in that situation.”
Bridgewater came close to joining Jets starter Geno Smith (Miramar) and former Bills starter Thad Lewis (Hialeah-Miami Lakes) as former South Florida high school star quarterbacks who have beaten the Dolphins in Miami over the past two seasons.
Still, the experience was great for Bridgewater, who had his mother, Rose Murphy, a breast cancer survivor, among his numerous family members in attendance Sunday.
Bridgewater also visited his former high school coach Billy Rolle before the game.
“I had a pretty nice turnout as far as family support,” Bridgewater said. “And not just from my family, but the entire Vikings family was cheering us on when we made big plays. I was excited to have my family here and see all the purple among the fans.”
Although the Vikings (6-9) aren’t headed to the postseason, Bridgewater has given them a reason for optimism.
Following a stellar three-year career at the University of Louisville, during which he led the Cardinals to a 12-1 season and a bowl win over the University of Miami as a junior, Bridgewater has completed 242of377 passes for 2,710 yards, 13 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions.
Bridgewater was drafted with the final pick of the first round of this past NFL Draft after doubts arose following a poor performance at his Pro Day. Bridgewater has outshined his fellow rookie quarterbacks since making his debut in Week 3 following an injury to then-Vikings starter Christian Ponder.
“[Bridgewater] had one interception and it was bad luck, a tipped ball,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “Most of the time I thought he did a good job scrambling out of the pocket. I thought he made some great throws. I thought he played with composure. I thought he continued to do all of those things.”
Sunday’s start was Bridgewater’s 11th of the season, breaking Vikings legend Fran Tarkenton’s rookie record. Bridgewater’s passing yardage totaled also recently eclipsed another Tarkenton rookie mark.
But Bridgewater’s competitive nature left him unsatisfied following Sunday’s result.
“Life has been great to set your goals and accomplish them each year,” Bridgewater said. “Just five years ago, I was a senior at Northwestern and I was watching Dolphins games and attending Dolphins games. To play against those guys [Sunday] was a great feeling. But at the end of the day, we didn’t do what we came down here to do.”