The Teddy Bridgewater comeback story has taken its next intriguing turn.
Despite lacking all-world running back Christian McCaffrey because of an ankle injury, Bridgewater and the Carolina Panthers have won two straight games. What appeared to be a season quickly headed for disaster now, suddenly, has the Panthers in position to make an unexpected playoff run.
Quicker than Bridgewater could audible at the line of scrimmage, Carolina is making its case as the NFC’s new sleeper team.
Teddy Bridgewater and Carolina have won two straight games
It was very easy to write the Carolina Panthers off after two early losses where the team was outscored 65-47.
Things have suddenly started clicking for Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers in recent weeks, though. Carolina held off rookie quarterback Justin Herbert and a competitive Chargers team, 21-16, in Week 3 on the road.
Bridgewater and the Panthers then defeated Kyler Murray and the Cardinals, 31-21 at home in Week 4.
At 2-2, Carolina is tied for second place in the NFC South Division.
Bridgewater has looked sharp this season
The early numbers on Teddy Bridgewater’s first season as a full-time starter since 2015 don’t look great at first glance.
Bridgewater completed an even 73% of his passes for 1,147 yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions in his first four games. But, it is important to remember two things about Bridgewater.
First, Bridgewater is doing that damage without All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey, who remains out with an ankle injury; and without veteran tight end Greg Olsen, who signed with the Seattle Seahawks in the offseason.
Also, Bridgewater was never a prolific passer in his two years with the Vikings — he threw 28 touchdowns to 21 interceptions in his first 29 career games — and relied more on game-managing. Bridgewater is doing the same in Carolina while averaging a career-high 8.1 yards per attempt.
Bridgewater also picked up 70 rushing yards and a touchdown in his first four games.
If Bridgewater is stepping up like this with McCaffrey out, one has to wonder how efficient the Panthers’ offense will be when their all-world running back returns. Bridgewater led the Vikings to an NFC North Division title in 2015 by managing the game and handing the ball off to star running back Adrian Peterson.
Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers could be a sleeper team
Don’t look now, but the Carolina Panthers may just have found their footing after an 0-2 start.
Carolina may be 2-2, but they’re tied for second place in the NFC South Division in a year where there will be seven playoff teams, not six.
Bridgewater wants the football world to be on alert for the Panthers. According to The Charlotte Observer, Bridgewater called the Panthers a “tough-ass team” during a postgame interview with Fox after the Week 4 victory.
“We grind every day, man. No one feels sorry for us. We don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We just have that what’s next mentality. If something goes bad, what’s next? It’s good to see guys when you watch the flow of the game and things happens and guys are on the sidelines asking each other, ‘What’s next?’ It’s a team that fights together and we’ll continue to get stronger and stronger as a family.”
Bridgewater echoed the “family” idea during his postgame Zoom conference with reporters.
Bridgewater and the ‘family’ Panthers have three very winnable games ahead. The Panthers travel to Atlanta in Week 5 before hosting the Bears — whose 3-1 record is misleading — in Week 6. Bridgewater returns to face his former team in Week 7 for a Panthers-Saints showdown in New Orleans.
The Saints have looked slow in recent weeks and, with COVID-19 protocols, won’t have the same deafening atmosphere at home that they’re used to enjoying.
If the Panthers can win two of those games and enter the Week 8 matchup with Atlanta at 4-3, a postseason berth may just be in the cards for Carolina.