Keenum, Thielen, lead Vikings to fifth straight victory
LANDOVER, Md.— For nearly three quarters, Case Keenum was heading for the game of his life.
OK, so it didn’t end up as one to hang on the wall. But the quarterback did enough to lead the Vikings to a 38-30 win over Washington on Sunday at FedExField.
For much of the game, Keenum looked ready to seize NFC offensive player of the week honors. He threw a career-high four touchdown passes, three in the second quarter and one in the third quarter, and the Vikings took a 35-17 lead.
Keenum, though, turned a bit wayward. He threw a pair of interceptions to safety D.J. Swearinger, one late in the third quarter and one on the first play of the fourth quarter. The second pick led to the Redskins to closing within 35-27, but the Vikings (7-2) survived.
“A win’s a win, so obviously I’m very pleased with that, but we made things interesting,’’ Keenum said. “I think me, myself, put our team in a tough spot there. We need to learn how to finish games playing ahead, so yeah, definitely something to work on.’’
Looking on as Keenum’s backup was Teddy Bridgewater, who dressed out for the first time since suffering a torn ACL in August 2016. He was emotional before the game about his comeback, shedding tears.
Bridgewater was activated Wednesday from the physically unable to perform list and didn’t get into the game. There has been plenty of speculation about when Bridgewater might regain his starting job, but Keenum certainly did enough Sunday that he’ll start next Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium against the Los Angeles Rams.
Keenum completed 21 of 29 passes for 304 yards. He is now 5-2 in his seven starts this season.
“Case played outstanding,’’ said Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. “I wish the two throws he had in the second half he would not have made. But you know, he’s an excitable guy and he needs to understand when are the good plays, when are the bad plays sometimes.’’
Among the good plays were touchdown passes in the second quarter of 3 yards to Stefon Diggs, 7 yards to Adam Thielen and 1 yard to David Morgan and a 7-yard TD toss in the third quarter to Jarius Wright for 35-17 lead.
Thielen had eight receptions for 166 yards. Diggs, from a Maryland suburb of Washington, had four catches for 78 yards.
After his TD, Diggs jumped on the padding of the goal post to give it a big hug. He was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, costing Minnesota 15 yards.
After Thielen’s touchdown, he called for his teammates to join him for a game of leapfrog in the end zone. That celebration came a month after tight end Kyle Rudolph scored at Chicago the Vikings played "Duck, Duck, Gray Duck.’’
“I didn’t see them when they were sitting on the ground over there, but I did see Diggs jump on the goal post and we had a little discussion,’’ Zimmer said of Sunday’s celebration.
It was hard for Zimmer to be too upset considering the Vikings have won five consecutive games.
“We’re right where we want to be, but our work isn’t over,’’ said defensive end Brian Robison. “We can’t be satisfied being 7-2. We know all too well you can be 7-2 one week and the next thing you know you’re 7-7.’’
Robison moved into the starting lineup in place of Everson Griffen, who sat out with foot injury. Griffen, who has a team-high 10 sacks, had been listed as questionable and Zimmer said he would play. However, he tested his foot in warm-ups and decided it would not be prudent to not risk it.
Without Griffen, the Vikings didn’t have a sack until Danielle Hunter got one late in the game, and their overall defensive performance was uneven. The Vikings gave up nearly double the 16.9 points they had allowed per game during the first half of the season.
“We’re going to come back and it fix it,’’ said linebacker Eric Kendricks.
Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 26 of 45 passes for one touchdown but did throw an interception. That came with 1:38 left in the first half when nose tackle Linval Joseph tipped the ball and Mackensie Alexander picked it off and returned it 10 yards to the Redskins 23, leading to Morgan’s TD for a 28-17 halftime lead.
It was Morgan’s first career score. He was one of five different Minnesota players to score a touchdown, the other being Latavius Murray on a 1-yard run in the first quarter.
“That was awesome,’’ Morgan said. “The ball was getting spread around to everybody. We were running the ball and passing the ball and protecting well.’’
It wasn’t awesome when Keenum fluttered a ball into the air late in the third quarter that Swearinger snagged downfield at the Washington 19.
That didn’t lead to any points. But Keenum’s next pass was picked off by Swearinger on the first play of the fourth quarter and returned 31 yards down the sideline to the Minnesota 2, leading to a Cousins 2-yard TD run.
“Obviously, he knew he didn’t make the best play there but it’s a great feeling to know that quarterback is going to come back out and compete just as he has the whole game,’’ Thielen said.
Keenum bounced back to lead the Vikings on a drive that culminated in a 53-yard field goal by Kai Forbath with 7:45 left that put Minnesota up 38-27. That all but locked up another win for Keenum as the starter.