Vikings coach Zimmer facing QB decision
(TSX / STATS) -- EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Look around the NFL long enough and you will realize the Minnesota Vikings have a good problem on their hands at quarterback.
On the one hand, they are 7-2 and riding a five-game winning streak with career journeyman Case Keenum playing all but six quarters in place of injured Sam Bradford.
On the other hand, Teddy Bridgewater is healthy and raring to go as the hardest part of the schedule continues with the Rams at home on Sunday followed by three straight road games at Detroit, Atlanta and Carolina.
On Monday, head coach Mike Zimmer said he has decided who will start on Sunday. Naturally, he's keeping that out of the public eye after addressing the full team on the subject the morning after a 38-30 win at Washington.
"I have a plan," he said again on Monday.
Bridgewater hasn't played since tearing multiple ligaments while dislocating his left knee in a non-contact injury in practice a week before the 2016 season. He also has had only three weeks of practice, but was deemed ready to serve as Keenum's backup on Sunday.
So it would make sense to stick with Keenum, right? Well ...
Keenum had a strange enough game Sunday to create some doubt. When the Vikings led 35-17 early in the third quarter, he had a perfect passer rating, four touchdowns and no turnovers.
Then he threw careless interceptions on consecutive throws to put the Redskins back in the game.
"I talked to him a little bit this morning about understanding the situation of the game, where we're at and sometimes a throwaway is a good thing," Zimmer said. "You know, the two turnovers were bad. They were back-to-back. We've got the game pretty much in hand. The rest of the game, he played pretty darn good.
"But he's a very excitable guy. Sometimes he gets off the reservation a little bit."
Ultimately, the Vikings want to return to Bridgewater at some point. The 2014 first-round draft pick was primed for a breakout season as the team's quarterback of the future when he was injured. But Zimmer also has to be careful not to disrupt the momentum that has the Vikings sitting in the NFC's No. 2 seed.
Again, look around the league. When your third-best quarterback is 5-2 as the starter and your former and possibly future franchise QB is healthy enough to return, this is a good problem to have.
--Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said he tried to hold back the tears. But as the national anthem played, he simply couldn't do it.
Bridgewater started thinking about the last 14 months and how far he has come since that horrific knee injury during a non-contact practice drill. He looked down and saw himself back in uniform and, well, the tears began to flow.
"I was trying to keep it together," Bridgewater said. "It's just, opportunities like these don't come around twice. So when you get that second opportunity, you cherish it. You hold it, and you never want to let it go. Today, it got the best of me."
Bridgewater didn't play. He served as backup to Case Keenum.
"If I play, I play," Bridgewater said. "I'm going to give it my all. I won't hold anything back. But right now, I'm going to be cherishing this moment. It's about the Vikings winning in Washington against a good team."
--The Vikings had only three penalties for 40 yards. But one of them was a 15-yarder that was easily avoidable. At a time when it seems anything goes for touchdown celebrations, wide receiver Stefon Diggs managed to get flagged when he used the goal post as a prop.
After catching a touchdown pass in the far left corner of the end zone, Diggs took off toward the goal post, his arms spread wide. Then he jumped onto the "Salute to Service" padding around the base of the goal post and held on.
The penalty also earned Diggs a stern talking to from head coach Mike Zimmer. The penalty helped give the Redskins the ball at their 40-yard line. They drove only 60 yards for a touchdown.
"I was thinking of a way to kind of 'Salute to Service.' I saw the bag, I jumped on it - poorly executed, but hopefully I got the message across: big hug," Diggs said. "It's something that won't happen again. I won't be giving out any more free hugs. They'll have to pay for it next time."
NOTES: DE Everson Griffen was a surprise inactive because of a foot injury he suffered against the Browns on Oct. 29. Griffen was listed as questionable, but was expected to play. The coaches changed their mind on his status after a pregame warmup. Griffen has 10 sacks, including one in each of the first eight games. ... MLB Eric Kendricks continues to be a force as the team's leading tackler. He had a game-high 10 tackles, including one for a loss. On the TFL, he read the sweep perfectly, got a jump on the blocking and knifed through to upend the ball-carrier. ... SS Andrew Sendejo returned after missing the Browns game while serving a one-game suspension for targeting Ravens receiver Mike Wallace's head. Sendejo had two of the team's seven passes defensed on Sunday. He turned a touchdown into a field goal when he punched the ball from Jamison Crowder's grasp in the end zone on third-and-goal from the 3. ... LG Nick Easton returned from a calf injury that had sidelined him for three weeks. He made it through the game and appears to be good to go for Sunday's game against the Rams. ... RT Mike Remmers (concussion) missed the game. Rashod Hill got his first start and played well as the line gave up no sacks and only two QB hits. ... QB Teddy Bridgewater was active for the first time since suffering a serious knee injury in August of 2016. He didn't play, but served as Case Keenum's backup in the game.
REPORT CARD VS. REDSKINS
--PASSING OFFENSE: B - Case Keenum had a perfect passer rating of 158.3, four touchdowns and a 35-17 lead early in the third quarter. By the start of the fourth quarter, he had thrown interceptions on consecutive passes to help the Redskins get back into the game. He finished with a 117.0 passer rating. Receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs torched Washington's secondary with 12 catches for 244 yards and two touchdowns. The offensive line was excellent again as Washington failed to record a sack for the first time in 32 games.
--RUSHING OFFENSE: B - The offensive line played better than the running backs. Latavius Murray finished with 68 yards, a 4.0-yard average and a touchdown. But he basically only took what the line gave him. With another gear, he could have turned some of his good runs into explosive plays. The Vikings ran for 102 yards on 31 carries (3.3).
--PASS DEFENSE: C-plus - The Vikings are capable of playing much better defensively than they did Sunday. They gave up season highs in passing yards (327), yards (394) and points (30). Nickel back Mackensie Alexander had his first career interception by being in the right place when Kirk Cousins overthrew a receiver near the end of the first half. Cousins had a 78.7 passer rating while completing 26 of 45 passes. The Vikings did play the game without their sack leader, Everson Griffen, who has a foot injury.
--RUSH DEFENSE: A - Washington had only one run longer than nine yards. Chris Thompson had a 14-yard run, but also was dropped for a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-1 in the second half. Tackle Tom Johnson read the guard leaning toward the direction of the play, shot the gap and made the tackle.
--SPECIAL TEAMS: A - No glaring errors and a perfect outing for kicker Kai Forbath. Forbath made all five extra points after missing four in the first eight games. He moved the spot of the kick from the middle of the field to the right hash and looked confident on all five attempts on Sunday. Meanwhile, he also made a key 53-yard field goal when the Vikings really needed it. Washington had closed to within eight points when the Vikings went on a 13-play drive that took 7:02 off the clock. Forbath made it a two-score game by nailing the kick. He's 36 for 37 on field goals in his 16 games as a Viking.
--COACHING: A - This was the kind of game the Vikings typically trip over when things are going well. They were the better team, but they were coming off a bye and going on the road. That's where their 2016 season began to go south. They were 5-0 and went to Philadelphia and began their 3-8 slide. Head coach Mike Zimmer has this year's team better prepared and fresher. Of course, it helps that the rebuilt offensive line is a strength and not the drain that last year's line was. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is able to be creative and balanced with a line that can pass protect and open holes.
Updated November 13, 2017