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Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater Injury Kills Postseason Hopes

Nov 8, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) injured after a late hit during the fourth quarter against the St. Louis Rams at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Rams 21-18. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 8, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) injured after a late hit during the fourth quarter against the St. Louis Rams at TCF Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Rams 21-18. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's massive injury is the exact news that the team feared and it brutally dashes their postseason hopes like a longboat striking rocks in a storm.

The hyper-accurate Teddy Bridgewater has been overshadowed by his peers Blake Bortles and Derek Carr through the first two seasons of his career. This, despite winning the NFC North in 2015, is a shame.

Bridgewater was quietly doing everything asked of him in the Minnesota Vikings offense. He was quietly delivering strike after strike in an efficient passing attack that was the perfect complement to a dominant rushing attack behind Adrian Peterson and a top defense that rose to the occasion again and again and again.

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The rushing attack and the defense received most of the attention. After all, this is Peterson's team until Bridgewater proves otherwise. 2016 was the year that Bridgewater may finally prove that he deserves to lead the Vikings on his own and rise up out of Peterson's shadow.

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The string of tweets posted by Vikings beat writer caused every Vikes fan's heart to drop.

Teddy Bridgewater just went down with an apparent injury and the #Vikings ended practice. Looks serious.

-- Matt Vensel (@mattvensel) August 30, 2016

Players spiked helmets and took knees as trainers attended to Teddy. Looked to be a non-contact injury.

-- Matt Vensel (@mattvensel) August 30, 2016

An ambulance has arrived at Winter Park. #Vikings

-- Matt Vensel (@mattvensel) August 30, 2016

Zimmer was asked if there is any hope Teddy can play this season. "It doesn't look good right now."

-- Matt Vensel (@mattvensel) August 30, 2016

And then, the unthinkable. Writing for the Star Tribune, Vensel headlines "Teddy Bridgewater faces surgery after complete tear of ACL in left knee" and follows it up with, "Vikings QB will likely miss entire season after ACL tear."

That the kind of news that no playoff-caliber team ever hopes to hear. It's the kind of news that would absolutely destroy all hope for teams that aren't as well built as the Minnesota Vikings. Still, it's hard to escape the stark reality that losing a quarterback who is capable of doing everything asked of him and looked to take a step forward isn't going to be a hard burden to bear.

It's easy to do a simple analysis and see that Bridgewater only contributed 3,231 yards in 2015 (22nd in the NFL) and 14 touchdowns (26th). It's easy to look as and see his 2014 rookie season contributed just 2,919 yards (23rd) and 14 touchdowns (23rd). Those numbers don't jump off the page but they do mask the true value of a quarterback like Bridgewater.

Bridgewater is almost the second-coming of a passer like Chad Pennington. Pennington, the second-most accurate QB in NFL history (behind Drew Brees), completed 66 percent of his passes on average. He had seven seasons with a completion percentage above 60 percent and an impressive four seasons above 67 percent. He led the league twice in that category.

That kind of consistency when dropping back to pass doesn't get the same number of accolades as someone like Bortles who chucks it deep to a stud wide receiver that leaps over his defender to make the play. But many coaches would prefer to have a guy who completes 64.9 percent of his passes (Bridgewater's two-year average) when he drops back to pass rather than 58.7 percent (Bortles' two-year average). Bridgewater is the reliable quarterback that teams need. He completes passes as required and while it doesn't light up the score board, it certainly keeps drives moving.

Aug 12, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) against the Cincinnati Bengals in a preseason NFL football game at Paul Brown Stadium. The Vikings won 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

That kind of performance is exactly why players like Pennington can have long careers in the NFL. Dependability on pass after pass after pass is a hidden value in the NFL that is overlooked by superficial analysis of gaudy passing yards and touchdowns.

Missing that dependability is what can truly hurt the Vikings' postseason hopes. They may still make the playoffs but, as the Houston Texans showed in 2015, a team can only go as far as his quarterback.

What Bridgewater has accomplished with a mishmash of receiving talent aside from tight end Kyle Rudolph has, frankly, been impressive. Until this season, he didn't have Carr's Amari Cooper or Bortles' Allen Robinson. He had a low-on-gas Mike Wallace and surprising rookie Stefan Diggs in 2015. Still, he made it work.

Aug 18, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Shaun Hill (13) passes against the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter at CenturyLink Field. Minnesota defeated Seattle, 18-11. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Shaun Hill is not Bridgewater. I like Hill and think he's a solid backup quarterback, but he isn't the efficient passer that can do everything asked of him. Further, after 10 years in the league, Hill's ceiling is known and he isn't going to suddenly develop a beautiful deep ball like Bridgewater was hinting toward in the preseason.

Fellow QB Taylor Heinicke is still recovering from a foot injury (per Star Tribune writer Andrew Krammer) but could be back in a couple of weeks. Does Heinicke inspire similar confidence to Hill or Bridgewater? Of course not.

For all of his detractors, Bridgewater has lived up to his billing as a first round pick and he has lived up to his role with the Vikings. Now the Vikings have to re-tool the offense around inferior quarterbacks and that's a scary thought.

While it would be unwise to count the Vikings out completely (via Matt Vensel of the Star Tribune), it's hard to imagine a team that was suddenly rendered rudderless in 2016 can truly compete in a crowded NFC North that features Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. It's hard to imagine the defense and running game sustaining to enough to put them in the Super Bowl.

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Hence, 2015's postseason loss was a heartbreak because the Minnesota Vikings -- Seattle Seahawks game was winnable. In 2016, those postseason matchups will be even harder to win without a quarterback. The Vikes may slip into the playoffs, but going far just may be impossible.

Just ask Gus Frerotte and the 2008 squad.

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