EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Teddy Bridgewater watched intently on Monday night as Washington battered Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo with blitz after blitz, sacking Romo five times and eventually knocking him out of the game for a period of time.
Dallas’ offensive line had dominated in the running game all season long and had allowed 12 sacks heading into the game, a big reason the Cowboys had won six games in a row and looked to be the class of the NFC. Romo was staying upright and having his most efficient season.
Then Washington unleashed a blitz package developed by defensive coordinator Jim Haslett that even the veteran Romo and his offensive line couldn’t handle.
"It showed that those guys are a pretty dynamic defense," Bridgewater said of watching Washington on Monday.
Bridgewater watched his next opponent live on Monday, as the Minnesota Vikings will host Washington this week.
Minnesota’s rookie first-round pick saw Romo lying on his back for several minutes following a blitz and sack by Washington linebacker Keenan Robinson. A rookie was trying to diagnose what Romo was seeing.
"It’s very exotic," Bridgewater said of Washington’s blitz package. "You never know what you’re going to get. You just have to continue to know their tendencies and study the film."
Bridgewater has impressed his coaches with his demeanor and composure since being drafted in May. Through his first four NFL starts, he’s faced plenty of pressure. While the sacks have come in bunches, Minnesota believes Bridgewater has handled the adversity well.
This week is another test. The Vikings know they will see more from Washington’s blitz.
"Washington’s playing against a real veteran quarterback and felt the best way to go in critical situations was to blitz him," Minnesota offensive coordinator Norv Turner said. "If they’re going to blitz Tony, I would imagine they’re going to feel comfortable blitzing us. So, we obviously have to have a plan for their blitz package and for their bluff blitz package, and for anything new they might do.
"So that’s part of a quarterback’s development, a part of all of our offensive team’s development, moving on to the next week and understanding it’s a different defense, understanding its different personnel, it’s different blitz packages, it’s different coverages."
Dubbed "2-minute Teddy" by receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in the preseason, Bridgewater added to his reputation for handling clutch situations last week. At the end of each half, Bridgewater drove the Vikings for time-expiring field goals and Minnesota beat Tampa Bay 19-13 in overtime.
With 59 seconds left in the first half, Bridgewater completed three consecutive passes for 38 yards before stopping the clock with a spike to set up a 46-yard field goal attempt. Given 1 minute, 57 seconds left at the end of regulation, Bridgewater was 5 of 8 passing for 54 yards before Blair Walsh’s game-tying, 38-yard field goal.
"Sometimes in the 2-minute drills, defenses aren’t able to get many calls in to do the exotic things that they’re able to do with their blitzes and changing their fronts," Bridgewater said of handling the hurry-up situations. "It’s one of those deals, you know what you’re going to get from the defense and you can just go out there and play fast."
In the high-pressure situations, Bridgewater has seemingly been his most relaxed. Patterson saw the poise from the beginning.
"He’s a calm person, man," Patterson said. "I feel like he’s not pressured when he’s back there in the pocket. He just sits back there, just trying to find the open man, just trying to hit him. That’s what he do, man. He’s good at it."
The hurry-up offense might suit Bridgewater for another reason.
"I’m able to just think less, just go out there and play pitch and catch," Bridgewater said. "I have to continue to remind myself to stop thinking so much. Our coaches are calling great plays, allowing me to think less. But still me being a young guy and trying to be perfect, I find myself thinking too much."
Washington likely won’t allow Bridgewater to think too much this week.
Minnesota has allowed 28 sacks this season, the second-highest total in the NFL. Washington is tied for ninth in the league with 21 sacks. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is fourth in the league with 7.5 sacks.
Bridgewater was holding on to the ball too long at times, but was more decisive last week and the offensive line held up better in allowing just one sack. Bridgewater had been sacked 13 times the previous two weeks.
The struggles showed on the scoreboard — one offensive touchdown in losses to Detroit and Buffalo — and on Bridgewater’s weekly evaluation sheet. Each week, Vikings coaches grade their players and Bridgewater said his grades have been lower than he expects.
"I think I’ve been struggling holding onto the football a lot and causing those guys to have to block for extra seconds," Bridgewater said. "Coaches have been on me to get rid of the ball and play faster. The past three weeks, each week we’ve made those improvements."
Turner believes Bridgewater has thrived in the hurry-up offense because he’s able to fall into a rhythm as the team eschews the run with less time on the clock.
"I think it’s easier on a quarterback," Turner said. "You’re not worrying about running the bal. You’re not worried about setting something up and just playing."
Bridgewater will need to just play, quickly, against Washington this week.