Teddy Bridgewater will give best Tom Brady look to end Panthers' skid

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Last week he pretended to be Patrick Mahomes. This week he’ll pretend to be Tom Brady.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater showed a little of both NFL MVPs in Sunday’s 33-31 loss at Kansas City.

He went airborne the final five yards for a first down on fourth-and-14 with a Mahomes-like scramble and put together a Brady-like 73.4 completion percentage that put a scare into the defending Super Bowl champions.

But it’s Bridgewater’s desire to run the “look" team each week -- to give his defense the best look at opposing quarterbacks -- that really makes him unique.

Bridgewater volunteers to run a set amount of plays on Wednesdays and Thursdays, something few if any other starting NFL quarterbacks do.

“It just shows that nobody’s role is too big here," offensive coordinator Joe Brady said of his quarterback, who turns 28 on Tuesday.

It’s that kind of leadership that’s helped keep the Panthers (3-6) competitive during a four-game losing streak, that helped them win three straight after losing Pro Bowl running back Christian McCaffrey to a high ankle sprain in Week 2.

The Panthers will lean on Bridgewater again against Tampa Bay (6-3) with McCaffrey’s status in doubt with a shoulder injury suffered on Sunday’s final drive.

“Teddy’s leadership style is one of servant leaderhood, where he’s always there for everyone else," Panthers coach Matt Rhule said. “Just taking a rep is just a very simple, small act that sends a big message of, ‘Hey, we’re all in this together.’"

There's no doubt that McCaffrey is an elite talent, but the Panthers are 0-3 this season when he’s played and have lost 11 straight with him dating back to last season.

It was the inconsistent play and leadership of the quarterbacks after losing Cam Newton that led to the Panthers losing their final eight games last season. It’s been the consistent play and leadership of Bridgewater that's allowed Carolina to be within eight points in five of their six losses, and within four points in three.

Much of it starts with the unselfish attitude Bridgewater shows in wanting to run the "look" team.

Defensive coordinator Phil Snow was so surprised the first time he saw Bridgewater on the look team that he asked, “Is that Teddy in there?"

“What I appreciate is he wants to go in there and he knows where to throw the football and who to throw it to and when to move," Snow said. “When the starting quarterback gets in there and goes with the team that’s going against you, it’s really impressive on his part."

Backup running back Mike Davis, who has been in the NFL for six seasons with four different teams, never has seen the starter run the look team.

“I look at it as him being a leader," said Davis, who will resume again the workload at running back if McCaffrey can’t play Sunday. “Him not just doing the rep, but him trying to make our defense better. And him making himself better going against the ones."

Bridgewater began running the look team in 2017 with the Minnesota Vikings, when he was coming back from the horrendous 2016 training camp knee injury that almost ended his career. It was his way of showing he still could compete.

He kept it up the past two seasons at New Orleans as Drew Brees’ backup. He shares that role with backups PJ Walker and Will Grier in Carolina.

“It’s an opportunity for me to steal an extra rep," said Bridgewater, whose 71.9 completion percentage is second in the NFL to the 74.0 of Brees. “And if it is a play where I feel I can be Mahomes-ish -- run around a little bit, make plays -- it’s good for the defense to see."

Bridgewater takes the role seriously. He puts almost as much effort into studying opposing quarterbacks as he does defenses he’ll face each week.

“I tried a no-look pass," he said with a laugh of trying to imitate Mahomes' signature play last week. “I almost had some success."

This week, Bridgewater might be able to channel an angry Tom Brady in practice this week, as Brady surely is stinging from a 38-3 loss to New Orleans in which he threw three interceptions in a game for the first time since 2011.

That’s because Bridgewater isn’t happy with another close loss. In words he used repeatedly Sunday and Monday, he’s “pissed off."

But ultimately Bridgewater doesn’t plan to look like Brady or Mahomes against the Bucs to get Carolina a win. There’s only one quarterback he wants to be.

“Teddy Bridgewater," he deadpanned.