From the moment Teddy Bridgewater was cleared, Vikings Twitter has been flooded with calls for Teddy Time, GIFs of a dancing Will Smith with Bridgewater’s face superimposed on it and pleas for a blowout to allow him garbage time snaps. And for weeks, they have been denied.
In hindsight, it is clear the Minnesota coaching staff was waiting for the right moment: Namely, an already-decided game and preferably in front of the Minneapolis crowd. Sunday provided the perfect storm to give the hometown audience a moment to remember.
With 10 minutes remaining in the fourth, Case Keenum removed his helmet, donned his hat and put in the earpiece. Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph, grinning ear-to-ear on the sideline, urged the crowd to make noise. And Number Five strapped on his helmet for his first game action in almost two years.
The ovation was steady at first, but then slowly grew as the fans in attendance understood what was happening. The noise finally reached a crescendo as Bridgewater strolled out towards the huddle to make his first play call since his gruesome knee injury in August of 2016. The fourth-year quarterback put his hands to his ears to drown out the cheers, as they had become so loud he was unable to hear Pat Shurmur’s voice in his headset.
And just like that, the noise stopped. The Vikings faithful saw on the big screen that Bridgewater was struggling to hear. They knew their role: make everything easy for their quarterback. So they ceased their adulation for a brief moment to allow their man to do his job.
Bridgewater took to the huddle, high-fived each teammate and relayed the directives from the sideline. As soon as he broke it, the crowd chimed back in with another cacophony of appreciation and chants of “Teddy! Teddy!”
Then they once again went dead silent as soon as Bridgewater crouched under center. They again resumed as he handed off to Jerick McKinnon. Two plays later, they held their breath with anticipation as Bridgewater lined up in the shotgun on third down. There was an audible gasp when he twice attempted to abandon the pocket on his first dropback. And, ever the football fans, all of U.S. Bank Stadium collectively groaned when Bridgewater’s first pass in two years fell into the hands of a Bengal defender.
Yet, they cheered their disappointed quarterback off the field as he hung his head. The rust was obvious, the on-field return flawed. But the fans knew there was plenty to celebrate in that three play drive. This was a man who was in danger of losing his leg not long ago. And now, here he was: Right back where he belonged, in purple and gold with the football in his gloved hands.
From the moment the public address announcer said the words “Teddy Bridgewater,” the fans in attendance displayed their loyalty, their compassion and their football knowledge all at once. You can pick apart Bridgewater’s pocket presence, his accuracy and his comfort on his limited dropbacks. What you cannot pick apart, however, was the moment itself.
Vikings fans made it perfect.
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