X-factor: Teddy Bridgewater is in charge with Panthers

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, in his first season with the Panthers, has the team off to a surprising 2-2 start and will be the X-factor for the matchup between the Falcons and the Panthers at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Bridgewater, a first-round pick (32nd overall) of the Minnesota Vikings, suffered a devastating knee injury and pieced his career back together while serving as the backup quarterback in New Orleans in 2018 and 2019.

He signed a three-year, $63 million deal, with $30 million guaranteed, with the Panthers this offseason.

“I was happy for him,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said. “He’s worked so hard.”

Bridgewater has completed 103 of 141 passes (73%) for 1,147 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. He has a passer rating of 97.4.

He also has 12 rushes for 70 yards and one touchdown.

Teddy Bridgewater, as we know, has been able to win games in this league,” Falcons defensive coordinator Raheem Morris said. “He was with the Saints last year and was really productive. He is moving this team in the right direction.”

What’s more impressive is that Bridgewater has directed the Panthers to wins without his top weapon, running back Christian McCaffrey, who’s injured.

“They’ve done a nice job as far as the Carolina Panthers getting wins,” Morris said. “They’ve done a nice job of really controlling the ball. They’ve done a nice job of keeping it moving and keeping their defense off the field. Those are the things they’ve done, a good job of playing team football.”

The Falcons will look to get some pressure on Bridgewater.

“When we watched them, we see a good defense,” Rhule said. “We see a dominant defensive line. I’m sure (Falcons defensive end Takk) McKinley will be back, and we’ll have to just try to find a way.”

Rhule, who’s in his first season at Carolina, went back to study the Falcons' old game plans against the Panthers.

“The last couple of games that we played them, it’s all been them harassing our quarterback,” Rhule said. “I think the big key for us is finding a way to protect Teddy and keep him comfortable.”

Falcons' next four games

Panthers at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11

Falcons at Vikings at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18

Lions at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday Oct. 25

Falcons at Panthers at 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29

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