NEW ORLEANS — Teddy Bridgewater threw his first touchdown pass in more than three years on Sunday, the latest milestone in his comeback from a devastating 2016 knee injury.
Bridgewater, 26, started for the New Orleans Saints in place of Drew Brees since New Orleans has already clinched the NFC’s No. 1 seed. He completed the 9-yard TD pass to rookie receiver Tre’Quan Smith early in the fourth quarter in a 33-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
Bridgewater’s last NFL start came with the Minnesota Vikings during a playoff loss to Seattle after the 2016 season. And he said earlier this week that he had “the chills” just thinking about starting again.
Bridgewater, who could be in high demand as an unrestricted free agent after this season now that he has proven he is healthy, also threw an interception later in the fourth quarter and finished 14-of-22 for 118 yards with a touchdown and interception.
Bridgewater’s return wasn’t the only remarkable injury comeback in Sunday’s game for the Saints. Veteran offensive lineman Derek Newton entered the game early in the first quarter to replace starter Andrus Peat at left tackle — Newton’s first game action since he tore both of his patellar tendons at the same time with the Houston Texans in 2016.
Newton, 31, said he believes that no other player has ever returned to play in a NFL game after tearing both patellar tendons at the same time. He said he spent nearly two months in a hospital bed following surgery.
By sitting on Sunday, Brees officially set the NFL’s record for completion percentage in a season for the fourth time in his career at 74.4 percent — shattering the mark of 72.0 percent he set last year.
Also, Saints receiver Michael Thomas broke Joe Horn’s franchise record with 1,405 receiving yards in a season after catching a 6-yard pass from Bridgewater on the touchdown drive. Horn was in the building wearing a Thomas jersey.