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Keenum gets the job done vs. Washington – and shows why Vikings need Bridgewater

The Minnesota Vikings went into the offseason knowing that they needed a capable backup.

With Sam Bradford’s history of ACL injuries and no clear timeline for Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota couldn’t go into another win-now season with an inexperienced backup (or one that had been proven to be bad). Keenum joined the Vikings after positing 9-7 record in his previous 16 starts, which came on teams with very little in the way of weapons.

In Los Angeles, Keenum had one of the league’s worst offensive lines, zero running game and leading wide receivers Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin and Lance Kendricks. That’s a far cry from his situation in Minnesota with a quality offensive line, a creative offensive coordinator and the best 1-2 wide receiver tandem in the NFL.

So on a weekly basis, you’ll see backups like Tom Savage, Brett Hundley, Brock Osweiler, Drew Stanton and Ryan Fitzpatrick taking L’s, but not in Minnesota. Keenum is now 7-2 following a 38-30 win in Washington.

But in the victory, he made it clear that the Vikings will need Teddy Bridgewater back in order to be a true contender.

Things couldn’t have started better for Keenum on Sunday.

After the Vikings went down 7-0 to open the game, Keenum followed up back-to-back runs with a play-action bomb to Stefon Diggs, who burned Josh Norman for 51 yards.

He then hit Adam Thielen for a 38-yard pass on the third drive of the game, setting up another touchdown.

Up 28-17 in the third quarter, the Vikings could have played things conservatively. After all, they had been running the ball well against Washington. Instead Keenum went deep to Thielen, who ripped the ball down for a 49-yard pickup.

By the midpoint of the third quarter, Keenum was 14-for-18 with four touchdowns and a perfect QB rating.

In the third quarter, the overly-fearless version of Keenum showed up.

He rolled out and threw into triple coverage for an interception, cracking the door open for Washington. The Vikings’ opponent capitalized with a field goal, but they were still in control at 35-20.

Then Keenum did it again. A weak throw on an out route got picked off an run the other way to the 2-yard line. Kirk Cousins punched the ball in the end zone to put cut the Vikings’ lead to eight.

Neither of his interceptions should have happened. Washington’s near-comeback never should have happened.

Then with a chance to put the game away, Keenum threw a third-down pass inaccurately in Thielen’s direction, forcing Kai Forbath to kick a 53-yard field goal. Luckily for the Vikings’ backup QB, Forbath made the kick, putting the game out of range for Washington. Keenum finished 21-for-29 with 304 yards.

As the Vikings go down the stretch with hopes of being a Super Bowl contender, they will need better QB play.

Even leading up to Sunday’s game, there had been plenty of questionable performances under center. Keenum had just an 83.2 rating over his previous five games.

The FOX broadcast noted that head coach Mike Zimmer told them it’s only a matter of time before Bridgewater is back. Keenum’s second half all but solidified that it’s not “if” but “when” we will see him again.

While fantasy players tend to criticize Bridgewater’s touchdown totals, he led an ugly 2015 offense to the seventh best scoring percentage per drive in the NFL and an 11-5 record. He led a potential game-winning drive in the playoffs and, per PFF, ranked as the fourth most accurate QB in the NFL. If he’s back to 100 percent, Bridgewater is a legit NFL starter, while Keenum has proven to be a very good back up.

And give the Vikings’ front office major credit for signing the best backup in the NFL . Otherwise the season might have been completely lost when Sam Bradford went down Now it’s time to start planning Bridgewater’s return date.


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