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NOTEBOOK: Zimmer Dishes out Game Ball

Posted Sep 24, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS — Have a game ball, Case Keenum.

Moments after throwing for a career-best 369 yards and three touchdowns, Keenum reeled in his lone reception of the day, a spiral a few steps across the locker room from Head Coach Mike Zimmer.

“I don’t usually do this, but Case Keenum,” Zimmer said, flipping the ball to the quarterback who recorded his first win in Purple.

“Talk to me, 7,” a teammate shouted.

“I love you boys,” Keenum said. “I’ve never had a team like this in my life. I’m so proud of you guys. I’m going to fight for you boys every day. ‘Together’ on 3! 1, 2, 3 …”

“Together,” teammates shouted in unison.

That word was appropriate for the day.

Vikings players locked arms in solidarity during the National Anthem and were joined on the sideline by Vikings Owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf and General Manager Rick Spielman.

“It was kind of a team thing,” said Brian Robison, the longest-tenured Viking who is in his 11th season. “It was not one person’s idea. It was about the team.”

The Vikings played complementary football, building momentum between the offense and defense, and each of those units was supported by special teams.

Unlike last week in Pittsburgh when Minnesota fell behind the chains and on the scoreboard, the offense maintained balance, avoided an abundance of penalties and put the ball in the end zone on its first possession for the first time in a game this young season.

“I thought we played as a team today,” Zimmer said. “We acted like a team, we played like a team. Did we have a couple of dumb things happen? Yes, but we played like a team. That’s what I keep stressing about this particular group that we have, it’s a team.

“They fight together, they work together, they study together,” Zimmer continued. “I’m happy that he had a good performance, but he got help — Stefon Diggs made some great catches, Adam Thielen made some great catches. I thought [Dalvin Cook] ran well. The offensive line blocked well, so it was a good thing.”

Keenum completed 25 of 33 passes and compiled a passer rating of 142.1 in making his second consecutive start for Sam Bradford, who completed 27 of 32 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns in Week 1 but suffered a knee injury.

Keenum connected with Thielen for a 45-yard completion on his first throw of the day.

Thielen finished with five receptions for 98 yards, and Diggs totaled 173 yards on eight catches, which included a 59-yard touchdown in the third quarter and receptions of 47 and 17 (for a score) during a drive in the second quarter.

“I think those guys are doing a good job of doing whatever checks we have and knowing what we’re thinking,” Keenum said. “I think that’s one thing as a quarterbacks room is we try to all be on the same page as to how we view defenses. No matter who it is, we are all thinking the same thing as a passing corps.”

Zimmer was asked by media about dishing out the game ball and said, “I thought he played great, made great decisions, took care of the football. There were times he ran the ball when he needed to.”

Keenum, who was not sacked, rushed a total of six times for 18 yards with a long of 12.

“Offensive line played incredible, that’s where it starts for us,” Keenum said. “I think I was on the ground maybe once. I don’t remember any other times really.”

Different with a lead

The Vikings never trailed and built leads of 7-0, 14-3, 21-3 and 28-3 after Diggs’ 59-yard catch-and-run.

The large leads helped reduce the threat of the Buccaneers running game. Tampa Bay finished with 26 yards on nine carries.

“That’s huge. Our offense did a great job,” linebacker Eric Kendricks said. “You put, what was it, 21-3 at one point, that changes the dynamics of the game, makes it a little more pass-heavy. We were doing a good job of stopping the run, so anytime we can do that, that’s team football, special teams included.”

Minnesota allowed 328 yards passing by Jameis Winston but intercepted the former No. 1 overall pick three times.

Griffen, Stephen notch sacks

Vikings fans have become quite familiar with seeing Everson Griffen sack a quarterback.

Griffen notched his fourth of the season when he took down Winston for a loss of 3 in the second quarter to force a punt. It was the 52nd of Griffen’s career.

Shamar Stephen also got in on the act when he sacked Winston for a loss of 9 in the third quarter. It was Stephen’s first career sack. Robison made sure to have fun with Stephen, who is one of the more quiet players on the Vikings defense, chiding him during the interview with media members.

“[Robison] taught me everything I know,” Stephen said. “It felt good. We did a great job of pressuring the pocket, trying to get after it, and I got the sack.”

Three in Week 3 Again

The Vikings three interceptions — one each by Trae Waynes, Andrew Sendejo and Harrison Smith — marked the first time for Minnesota to have three interceptions in a game since Week 3 of the 2016 season when Waynes, Terence Newman and Tom Johnson each intercepted Panthers former No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton. 

Kicking with Kai

Kai Forbath was 2-for-2 on field goals and 4-for-4 on extra points. Forbath has now made 21 straight field goals, which is the third-longest streak in Vikings history.

Top Tandem

Through three games, Thielen has 299 receiving yards, and Diggs has 293, which are two of the top five totals by a Viking to start a season. Gene Washington (397 in 1969) has the record, and Diggs had 325 in his first three games of 2016. Thielen and Diggs are now bookending Hall of Famer Cris Carter, who totaled 297 in his first three games of the 1997 season.