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Zulgad: Case Keenum goes from disappointment to super sub

MINNEAPOLIS – Three plays.

That’s how long it took Case Keenum to establish that Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay was going to be far different from his disappointing debut as the Vikings’ starting quarterback a week earlier in Pittsburgh.

The veteran backup, replacing the injured Sam Bradford against the Steelers, had completed 20 of 37 passes for only 167 yards in that 17-point defeat.

On the third play from scrimmage Sunday, Keenum took the snap from shotgun with the ball at the Vikings’ 35-yard line. He let loose with a pass deep down the left side for Adam Thielen. The receiver had one arm pinned by Buccaneers cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III but still managed to control the ball with his free arm before getting his other arm around it as he went to the turf.

The 45-yard completion put the Vikings at the Tampa Bay 20 and four plays later Dalvin Cook scored on a 1-yard plunge to give the Vikings a lead they wouldn’t relinquish in a 34-17 victory over the Buccaneers at U.S. Bank Stadium.

“I think the shot early to Adam kind of calmed me down a little bit,” Keenum said. “He made a heck of a play. … To be able to do that early and get points on the board early, the first drive right out of the gate, I think that helps everybody.”

Most of all a quarterback who spent last week hearing that if Bradford was going to be lost for any amount of time the Vikings might be wise to explore other options.

The Buccaneers were missing three defensive starters  – defensive tackle Chris Baker, middle linebacker Kwon Alexander and cornerback Brent Grimes were all inactive – and in-game injuries depleted the defense even more.

That certainly helped Keenum’s cause.

But, to his credit, the 29-year-old took advantage and completed 25 of 33 passes for 369 yards with three touchdowns and a 142.1 passer rating.

He has made 26 career starts and appeared in 28 games over five NFL seasons with Houston, the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams and now the Vikings. On Sunday, Keenum established a career-high in passing yards, tied his career-high in touchdowns and had his second-best passer rating to the 158.0 he hung on the same Tampa Bay team in December 2015 when he was with St. Louis.

Keenum, who threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns as the Vikings took a 21-3 halftime lead, was so sharp that coach Mike Zimmer took the unusual step of awarding him a game ball immediately after the victory. “I usually don’t give out game balls after a game,” Zimmer said. “I thought he played great, made great decisions, took care of the football.”

Of Keenum’s 25 completions, eight of them went to Stefon Diggs for 173 yards and two touchdowns. Diggs was targeted 11 times. Thielen was the target of eight passes and had five receptions for 98 yards. A week after being sacked twice and never looking in-sync with his offensive line, Keenum wasn’t sacked and said he ended up on the turf only once.

“He’s a fighter,” Thielen said. “He’s a guy that you want to play for. He comes into work every day and he grinds and we know that we can feel his energy.”

So what does Sunday’s performance mean for Keenum? Not that much actually, other than it will give him a boost of confidence if he starts next Sunday’s game against Detroit at U.S. Bank Stadium.

That is likely but remains uncertain as we prepare for another week of Bradford Watch. A report Sunday said that Bradford will not need surgery on his sore left knee after getting a second opinion this weekend from Dr. James Andrews. But that doesn’t mean he will be ready to return this week.

So is Keenum prepared to accept a return to the bench sooner rather than later after being the hero Sunday? That is, after all, the life of a backup quarterback.

“I don’t know if accepting that is the right word,” he said. “For me, I accept my role on this team. I know I want to be ready whenever my name is called and so that’s why I prepare. Like I said last week, I prepare every week the exact same in order to play, in order to compete and to put this team in the best possible chance to win. I did it last week, I did it the week before and I am going to do it this week. That’s what I’m going to do every week.”

  • Gordon Guffey

    Backup QB’s are always loved and Bradford is always a injury away like Bridgewater isn’t ~ The Vikings need to find a way to trade up if there are any really good QB’s coming out be it in the first round or trading back into the first round or like what they did to get Cook in the second round ~ And he needs to sit on the bench for a couple of years while BradfordBridgewater or some other vet starts ~ Rogers set behind Favre for 4 years ~ Its one of the reason why he is so good IMHO ~ And its one of the reason why so few QB’s workout in the NFL ~ Far to many flame out because they were thrown into the fire as rookie ~ Not every rookie is the next Luck ~ Well when he is healthy ~

    Keenum has always been a good backup and many of the team loses he started for were not his fault ~ But it always falls a the QB’s feet right or wrong ~ Last week he found out he would be starting the morning of the game ~ Plus it was the Steelers first home game after their owner had sadly passes away ~ They were jack for that game but fell back to earth vs the Bears today ~ Last week was like the Steelers Super Bowl so to speak ~ There still a good team and hard to beat at times ~ But world beaters they are not ~

    • Jake Johnson

      I agree with your point Gordon, but Rodgers sat for 3 years behind Favre, taking over in ’08 while Brett was photo texting in New York.

      • Gordon Guffey

        I missed by just a little bit ~ LOL Smiley Face 🙂

  • David Prestin

    Oline was the difference. Great to see them moving the defensive line back right from the snap on running plays. The pocket was good today as well. Nice play calling as well.

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  • Louis

    A Case can be made Vikes are in the hunt!

    • Carl A Brodin

      It was not about the other team we were playing but how we executed our game plan which was pretty well executed.

      • cka2nd

        Well, both. Keenum had more prep time, Shurmer put together an excellent game plan giving Keenum two options on at least some of the plays, and the whole offense performed, but it was against a Bucs defense that was dealing with some injuries, so we got a bit lucky there.

  • Troy Ricklefs

    Keenum had a great game. But let’s not get carried away yet. Tampa Bay was basically playing 2nd and 3rd string defensive players all game to due illnesses and injuries. The Vikings did their job and dominated the game they way they should against back-ups and injured players. But I’m not ready to say Keenum is a rock star QB or even competent backup until he shows us something against better competition.

    Also keep in mind, if Jamis Winston makes a few less mistakes, or that near-fumble on the goal line by Cook gets called the other way, this is a much closer ball game.

    It does feel good to get a win from a game where I didn’t expect much. Next week will be a good test.

    • Gordon Guffey

      You said ~
      Keenum had a great game. But let’s not get carried away yet. Tampa Bay was basically playing 2nd and 3rd string defensive players all game to due illnesses and injuries.

      The Bucs still had 48 or 49 healthy players ~ Surely they can put up a good fight without 2 or 3 players ~ If not then they surely are not one of the playoff teams that networks should be talking about ~

      • Troy Ricklefs

        They lost their entire defensive secondary and their interior pass rush. If their losses were more evenly distributed, I’d agree. But those 2 areas combined gave Keenum exactly what he needed, open receivers and time to find them.

        Basically, I’m saying we might be ok with this line and Keenum, but I am still skeptical. This just wasn’t a good enough test.

        Granted last week I was saying Keenum stinks and we’re in trouble for the rest of the year, so this is a great improvement.

        • Gordon Guffey

          Thank you Tory for clearing that up for me ~ I didn’t get to see much of the game and forgot to hit record on the DVR ~ Grand kids surprised us and you know who won out on that one ~ LOL ~ Wouldn’t you know it it was a game in which they played well too ~ But it was worth it Smiley Face 🙂

          I was under the impression that they had some players who where limited but would play based off the last injury report I saw and I cant remember what day I saw that list ~

          You said ~
          Basically, I’m saying we might be ok with this line and Keenum, but I am still skeptical. This just wasn’t a good enough test.

          I agree now that I know they were missing more than a couple of guys ~

          You said ~
          Granted last week I was saying Keenum stinks and we’re in trouble for the rest of the year, so this is a great improvement.

          I know next to nothing about Keenum until this year ~ My friend who has been a long time Rams fan ((( like me as a Viking fan going on 40+ years and stuck with them through the bad years to boot like real fans do ))) said that if the OL can hold up and the skill players could get open that he and a lot of Rams fans believed Keenum wasis a fine QB ~ But that he didn’t have the supporting cast he does now back then ~ He said he is no Tom Brady ~ But no slacker either if you needed a fill in for a game or more ~ And thats about all I know about Mr. Keenum~ I’m just happy to have a healthy QB on the roster at this point ~ Really we have two when you count the kid we picked up from the Broncos ~ Hey I just shocked myself ~ LOL

  • Matt

    Keenum hasn’t been on a good offensive team yet in his career. His coach has been Jeff Fisher….hahahaha. A known QB supressor.

  • Gordon Guffey

    Posted: 2 hours ago
    Zimmer On The Keys To Success On Offense So Far

    Head Coach Mike Zimmer addressed the media from Winter Park on Monday.

    http://www.vikings.com/media-vault/videos/Zimmer-On-The-Keys-To-Success-On-Offense-So-Far/77914f67-57ec-4e15-8e37-05f92cf5ba88

  • Scott Mitchell

    This team is going to win or lose based on the play of the offensive line.





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