Minnesota Vikings: Mike Zimmer names Case Keenum starting quarterback vs. Atlanta Falcons

By The Sports Xchange  |  Nov. 24, 2017 at 7:10 PM
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- People confused that Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer won't come out and name Case Keenum as his starting quarterback for the rest of the season just don't get it.

Keenum is playing the best football of his life. Perhaps that's because he's playing like he has to fight, claw and scratch to win the job back every single week.

Whatever's going on, it ain't broke and Zimmer ain't fixing it. The Vikings are riding a seven-game winning streak and are 9-2 after all but wrapping up their second NFC North title in three years with a 30-23 win at Detroit on Thanksgiving. Detroit fell to 6-4, three games out with five to play, while the Packers are four out and becoming more unlikely to bring quarterback Aaron Rodgers back this season.

Zimmer was asked Friday if Keenum has earned the starting job ahead of the now-healthy Teddy Bridgewater for the rest of the season.

"He'll be the starter next week, yeah," said Zimmer, referring to the Dec. 3 game in Atlanta.

Keenum has posted three straight games with a passer rating above 100. He's thrown eight touchdown passes and turned the ball over twice in those three games. And the offense had surpassed 400 yards in three straight games for the first time since Brett Favre was the quarterback in 2009.

"I thought Case played pretty well [Thursday]," Zimmer said. "He made some big plays not only with his feet, but with some of the throws he made. We protected well. The couple of sacks, kind of held the ball too long."

For the most part, Zimmer praises Keenum publicly. But he does drop in some criticisms while refusing to commit to him for the rest of the season.

Say what you want, but it's working.

REPORT CARD VS. LIONS

--PASSING OFFENSE: B - After being sacked only five times in his first 300 pass attempts, Case Keenum was sacked twice and pressured more times in 30 attempts on Thursday. But he still managed to complete 21 passes for 282 yards, two touchdowns, no turnovers and a 121.8 passer rating. TE Kyle Rudolph scored two touchdowns, while Adam Thielen had eight catches for 89 yards to surpass the 1,000-yard mark.

--RUSHING OFFENSE: C - It was a strange, choppy outing for the running game. There was one perfect drive and a lot of not-so-perfect drives. The drive to open the second half was four plays - all runs - for 75 yards and a touchdown. Latavius Murray had 48 of his 84 yards and his 2-yard TD run on that drive. But after that, the Vikings managed only 10 yards on 14 carries. That inability to run the ball helped the Lions get back into the game.

--PASS DEFENSE: C - The Lions kept climbing back into the game with quick strikes against the pass defense. Detroit had a 75-yard touchdown drive that took 27 seconds at the end of the first half. Two defensive penalties helped that drive, including a 22-yard pass interference on cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes and Terence Newman later gave up a 43-yard touchdown pass to make it a four-point game in the fourth quarter. But Rhodes put the game away with an interception in the closing minutes. And end Everson Griffen had two sacks.

--RUSH DEFENSE: A - The Lions only attempted 15 runs, gaining 53 yards (3.5 average). Their longest run was a 10-yarder on a jet sweep by receiver Golden Tate.

--SPECIAL TEAMS: F - The Vikings are getting away with a kicking situation that's getting shakier by the week. Four days after missing consecutive field goals, Kai Forbath had a 53-yard attempt and an extra point blocked. He has now missed five extra points this season. Holder Ryan Quigley dropped the snap and failed to recover well enough on the 53-yarder. On the missed extra point, Forbath said the Lions got away with a rules violation when they charged through the long snapper -- Kevin McDermott - to block the kick up the middle. The Vikings also gave up a 35-yard kickoff return and two punt returns for 30 yards.

--COACHING: B - Special teams needs to step it up. But, overall, the Vikings should be praised for going into Detroit on Thanksgiving and finding a way to score enough points to keep Matthew Stafford from winning another time with late-game heroics. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was able to get deep into his call sheet as the Vikings converted three straight third downs on their first possession. The defense was a little shaky against the pass, but played well enough to win.

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