Case Keenum continues to be a godsend for the Minnesota Vikings.
Perhaps it should no longer come as a surprise when the Los Angeles Rams washout outplays his counterpart, just as he did on Thanksgiving Day with the entire nation watching. Facing a red hot Matthew Stafford and a desperate Detroit Lions team that had won three straight games, Keenum went 21-for-30 for 282 yards and two touchdowns (both to tight end Kyle Rudolph), adding a rushing score as well in the 30-23 win. It was Minnesota’s seventh consecutive victory, all with Keenum under center.
The 29-year-old quarterback has become an unlikely, but viable MVP candidate this season. Against the Lions, it’s also worth noting that he once again took care of the football, registering a clean sheet in the turnover column for the sixth time this season.
“It feels really good,” Keenum told Fox after the game. “I’m very thankful.”
Keenum is definitely thankful for the incredible connection he has forged with wide receiver Adam Thielen, who – after amassing 89 yards versus the Lions – became the first Viking to compile a 1,000-yard season since 2009. Just last week Thielen, undrafted out of Division II Minnesota State in 2013, joined Randy Moss as the only other Viking (2000, 2003) to gain 900 yards after 10 games.
As things stand, the 9-2 Vikings are in firm control of the NFC North, hoping to capture their first division title since 2015 and their fourth since 2008. The formula under head coach Mike Zimmer has been simple: Play sound defense (they entered the game allowing 28 percent on third down, and ranked fourth in scoring defense as well as fifth in total defense), run the ball (previously with star rookie Dalvin Cook and now with the emerging Latavius Murray) and then rely on Keenum to do the rest.
Keenum, for his part, has also proven to be a capable, if not spectacular runner who successfully evades the pass rush and converts third downs, just as he did against Detroit. Better yet, his DVOA (which measures a quarterback’s value) entering Week 12 was third best in the entire league at 31.2 percent, slotting him ahead of marquee players like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott.
To be sure, things will not get any easier for Keenum and the Vikings. They travel to surging Atlanta next week, followed by a home game with Carolina.
#Vikings coach Mike Zimmer on QB Case Keenum: "It's going to be hard to yank him out of there right now. He's playing good. I still have really high hopes. You know a lot of things happen throughout the course of this season so we'll just see how it goes.''
— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) November 19, 2017
Of course, with any bad game from Keenum, we hear the Teddy Bridgewater fodder, given that the former first-round pick is healthy for the first time in 15 months. But in a season full of marginal quarterback play, maybe there should no longer be any such debate.
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