The feel-good return of Teddy Bridgewater will have to wait at least another week as Case Keenum throws career-best four touchdowns in win over Washington
The story was ready, and it was going to be perfect. Minnesota quarterback Teddy Bridgewater dressed for his first football game in 22 months Sunday, and even though the Vikings would start the purported placeholder of the quarterback job, Case Keenum, at Washington, wouldn’t it be dramatic if Bridgewater relieved Keenum at some point and got the save for the NFC North leaders.
It would have been spectacular, but it would not be realized. Keenum saw to that. Driving the Vikings to five touchdowns in the game’s first 33 minutes, and throwing for four touchdown for his first time as a pro, Keenum was the star in Minnesota’s bombs-away 38-30 win at Washington.
“Teddy saw me before the game, and he was smiling,” the 29-year-old Keenum told me from the Vikings’ bus after the game. “He was happy to be back, and I was thrilled to have him back. He said to me, ‘Smile! Have fun.’ He’s just the best teammate. It’s like I was telling someone before the game today: Teddy brings up the cool factor of our quarterback group exponentially.”
The Vikings have been careful to not make any long-term announcements at the quarterback position, though Bridgewater is very likely their long-term QB of the future. It would be surprising but not stunning if the Vikings made a change under center this week with the defensively aggressive Rams coming to town, but it's certainly not impossible to imagine.
Keenum was not just a facilitator Sunday—not just a quarterback along for the ride with an excellent one-two receiver punch in Stefon Diggs and emerging star Adam Thielen. Keenum lasered a 51-yard throw down the right sideline for Diggs, a perfectly placed deep ball. He showed excellent touch on a lofted pop throw to Thielen down the left sideline. Under pressure and about to get creamed by Washington rushers Will Compton and Terrell McClain, Keenum fired a perfect pass up the left seam to Thielen. And later Keenum rolled out and waited, waited, waited for Thielen to get free in the end zone and threw a perfect strike, with Josh Norman draped on Thielen, for a touchdown.
Keenum finished 21 of 29 for 304 yards and four touchdowns, with two picks. He was not perfect. But this very likely was the best game of his 34-game NFL life, a career that has seen him serve as the backup and start for the Texans, Rams and Vikings in six seasons. It’s been a long, winding and oft-frustrating road for the Texan. He’s from Abilene and went to the University of Houston, and his voice still is Texas all the way.
“What a blast,” Keenum said. “So rewarding. I’ll never forget, early in my career, we were struggling in Houston [with the Texans], and after one game, [MLB pitcher] John Lackey, he’s from the same hometown as me, and we know each other some … really good dude. He’s been through everything in baseball—played in some of the biggest games at the highest level, and I respect him a lot. He sent me a text. I can give you the edited version. He said, ‘Remember this day, because days like this are what makes winning so good.’
“Man, he’s right. Days like today are why you put your hat in the ring. Let’s be honest: If they played this game on paper, I wouldn’t be in this league. But it’s a game for competitors, and I’m a competitor.”
So, I asked Keenum, what was it like for you all week knowing that everyone in Minnesota, and many other places, want to see the Bridgewater return happen theatrically … and very soon.
“I have been preparing for this situation the whole year,” Keenum said. “I didn’t do an interview last year in L.A. without being asked about [rookie first-round pick] Jared Goff. So I get it. I am a huge Teddy fan. First, he’s just a beautiful thrower. I’ve got tremendous respect for him. He’s an instrumental part of our quarterback room, and all he’s been is helpful. A great teammate. I have had a serious knee injury. I know what he’s going through. But mostly, I’m able to compartmentalize it. I just figure, hey, it’s like I’ve got a buddy who owns a Ferrari, and he’s out of town, and he’s letting me drive it. So as long as they leave me the keys, I’m gonna keep driving this car.”
No one has said anything to Keenum about the future, except, “Get ready to go this week.” He doesn’t ask. “No one can predict the future,” he said, “and I’m not going to try.”
Rams at Vikings this week. Goff at Keenum ... or Bridgewater. If Keenum plays, it will be an emotional day for him. “Someone’s gonna have to slap me before the game—hard,” Keenum said, and you could almost hear his wide smile through the phone from Maryland. “This game means something to me.”
They all do.
Football in America: Episode 7—Philadelphia.
Our series, in partnership with State Farm, examining all levels of football—youth, high school, college and pro—has taken us to:
It continues in greater Philadelphia. Jenny Vrentas, Kalyn Kahler and videographer Jim Butts show us a high school turnaround, what Ivy League football is really like (at Penn), and the rise of the Eagles.
Vrentas writes this week about a Lincoln Financial Field tailgater, Ed Callahan, a retired Navy lieutenant, who has become the official host for fans from far, far away. A true glimpse into the City of Brotherly Love:
“Ed Callahan has had Eagles season tickets for 22 years. He’s been tailgating out of an RV across from the Linc for 12 of those years. And for the past two he’s been hosting special guests from the state of North Dakota. Callahan’s RV, The Eagle Mobile, has become the unofficial gathering place for North Dakotans since Carson Wentz, the pride of Bismarck, was drafted by Philadelphia in 2016 and named the team’s Week 1 starter as a rookie. Callahan’s parking spot is in the Wells Fargo Center lot across from Lincoln Financial Field. Last season the Wentz family and the mayor of Bismarck, Mike Seminary, were tailgating one lot over and stopped by on their way into the stadium … He and his wife, Deb, traveled to Philadelphia for the 49ers game last month, which coincided with Deb’s birthday. Callahan and his tailgate crew had an Eagles-themed birthday cake waiting for her.”