Keenum leads Vikings to fifth straight victory
LANDOVER, Md. — The Minnesota Vikings burst out of their bye week with an impressive offensive performance and enough defense to get the job done.
Case Keenum threw a career-high four touchdown passes, Adam Thielen had 166 receiving yards and the Vikings defeated the Washington Redskins 38-30 Sunday at FedExField to pick up their fifth straight win.
“It’s a huge win,” Thielen said. “We knew that we needed it for some momentum because when you have that London week and the bye week you kind of go into a little bit of a lull, and you want to make sure that you come out strong in that second half.”
Minnesota (7-2 and atop the NFC North) scored three touchdowns in a 4:27 span during the second and third quarters to open an 18-point lead.
“We couldn’t get a stop on defense,” Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. “They had us guessing and they were able to run the ball, able to drop back and throw it wherever they wanted to and were very efficient.”
Keenum finished 21 of 29 for 304 yards. He threw two second-half interceptions that helped Washington rally, but the Vikings defense held the lead late.
“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 definitely something to work on.”
Thielen had eight catches, one for a touchdown as Keenum threw touchdown passes to four different players, including Stefon Diggs (four catches for 78 yards). Running backs Latavius Murray (62) and Jerick McKinnon (38) combined for 100 yards.
The Vikings won without defensive end Everson Griffen, who was out with a foot injury.
“I wish we had played a little better defensively today, but it was an awfully good win,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. “These games in this league are tough to win, so when you score 38 points, you’re doing something right.”
Quarterback Kirk Cousins passed for one touchdown and ran for two more. He was 26 of 45 for 327 yards and one interception for Washington (4-5).
The teams combined for exactly 800 yards offense, 406 for the Vikings.
Keenum’s 49-yard bomb to Thielen on the third play of the second half set up his 7-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jarius Wright that gave the Vikings a 35-17 lead with 12:22 left in the third quarter.
A Nick Rose 21-yard field goal pulled Washington within 35-20.
Then, on the first play of the fourth quarter, safety D.J. Swearinger intercepted his second Keenum pass and returned it 31 yards to the Minnesota 2-yard line. Cousins scored two plays later and Washington was within 35-27 with 14:47 remaining.
Minnesota took seven minutes off the clock before Kai Forbath nailed a 53-yard field goal to push the lead to 38-27, and then stopped Washington on fourth-and-1 at the Minnesota 33.
Rose’s 55-yard field goal made it 38-30 with 1:14 left, but his onside kick attempt went out of bounds and Minnesota took over.
“There was no time or stretch where I felt like we couldn’t move the ball and yet no matter what we did it still felt like we weren’t doing enough,” Cousins said. “And it’s because of ... I think a few missed opportunities here and a couple of plays that could change a game and make a big difference probably there at the end.”
From the Minnesota 36 on the opening drive, Cousins threw down the left sideline to wide receiver Maurice Harris. Harris, promoted from the practice squad Saturday, made a diving one-handed catch near the pylon. The play was ruled out of bounds, but the Redskins challenged and replay showed Harris came down inbounds for the touchdown.
“I was running, I looked up and I saw the ball and I just reacted to it,” Harris said. “I was surprised myself. I figured I was in, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure.”
The Vikings quickly tied it.
Keenum found Diggs streaking down the left sideline and their 51-yard connection set up Murray’s 1-yard touchdown run.
With the Vikings trailing 10-7 early in the second quarter, Keenum hit Thielen over the middle on third-and-4 for 37 yards to the Washington 19.
Five plays later, Keenum threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Diggs.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Diggs helped the Redskins start at their own 40. They regained the lead when Cousins bulled in from the 1-yard line with 4:37 left in the first half.
Keenum and Thielen connected for back-to-back gains of 38 and 17 yards to get Minnesota to the 5-yard line. Keenum found Thielen again, this time for a 7-yard touchdown and the Vikings led 21-17 with 1:46 left.
Disaster struck for Washington when Cousins’ first-down throw sailed over wide receiver Jamison Crowder and was picked off by cornerback Mackensie Alexander and returned to the Washington 23. Keenum passed to tight end David Morgan for a 1-yard touchdown and the lead was 11.
NOTES: Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater was active and served as the backup. ... In addition to DE Everson Griffen, the Vikings were without starting T Mike Remmers (concussion). ... Washington was without starting TE Jordan Reed (hamstring), S Montae Nicholson (shoulder) and DE Matt Ioannidis (hand). ... Vikings K Kai Forbath hit his 16th straight field goal. ... With two rushing scores, Kirk Cousins (12) passed Sonny Jurgensen (10) for sole possession of the second-most career rushing touchdowns by a Redskins quarterback behind Joe Theismann (17). ... Redskins RB Rob Kelley (ankle/knee), WR Ryan Grant (concussion) and LB Will Compton (foot) left the game and did not return. Kelly, Compton and DeAngelo Hall (knee) will get MRIs.