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Keenum Makes Cases for Chucking It or Checking Down

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —Know when to chuck it and know when to check it.

It doesn't quite have the ring of Don Schlitz's words in the Kenny Rogers' classic "The Gambler" about knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em.

It is, however, a general guideline for a quarterback, more as something to keep in mind as more immediate things like spitting out plays, reading coverages, finding the best place to go with the football and delivering it while occasionally avoiding a rush.

Vikings quarterback Case Keenum will start Thursday at Detroit and participate in an NFL Thanksgiving game for the first time.

The Lions have 19 takeaways this season, the same as the Rams team that the Vikings hosted on Sunday. * *

Keenum took some risks against his former team and was rewarded with a 28-yard completion to Kyle Rudolph, who "Mossed" Los Angeles linebacker Alec Ogletree on a jump ball. Keenum nearly had a 30-yard touchdown pass to Adam Thielen four plays later on a third-and-7.

Thielen went for the ball and drew some contact from Lamarcus Joyner. The receiver nearly secured the catch, but the ball bounced away when Thielen hit the turf.

Diggs was open on the play, going across the field between the line of scrimmage and line to gain and would have had a shot to convert the play for a new set of downs.

Keenum, now 6-2 as a starter in Purple, said he tries to learn from every experience to further tailor his preparations for games.

"First of all, you want to take care of the football. That's the most important thing," Keenum said Tuesday. "That's the hopes and dreams of your team when you have the football in your hands, so that's why every decision I make is very important.

"With that being said, you want to give your guys a chance," Keenum said. "Some chances are better than others. Some risks are better than others, take the third down, we threw it deep to Adam last week, and it was pretty well-covered by Lamarcus Joyner. Had a chance, but you might check it down at that point and get a first down. There's a lot of give-and-take and a lot of ways you can look at it, but just try to keep doing what I'm doing."

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was asked about Keenum's willingness to take risks and said he likes the courage in the former Houston Cougar's style of play.

"He's not afraid," Zimmer said. "He's going to pull the trigger, and he is going to play like that. That's a good thing."

Keenum, who set a bevy of collegiate quarterback records only to go undrafted in 2012, has completed 297 of 300 passes (65.7 percent) for 2,194 yards with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions for a passer rating of 93.7.

When the Vikings and Lions met in Week 4, he was 16-for-30 (53.3 percent) for 219 yards with zero touchdowns or interceptions and a rating of 76.9. Keenum also was sacked two of the five total times he's been taken down this season.

Since then, however, Minnesota has won six straight, starting with a grinder in Chicago in which Keenum relieved Sam Bradford just before halftime and went 17-for-21 (80.9 percent) for 140 yards with a rating of 110.3.

Keenum has started each game since, and the Vikings have scored 23, 24, 33, 38 and 24 during the streak while continuing to capitalize on big plays. In Keenum's past three games, he's 75-of-110 passing (68.2 percent) with 872 yards, seven touchdowns, three interceptions and a rating of 101.8. He has had four pass plays of 20 or more yards in each of the past three outings.

Minnesota is tied with the Los Angeles Rams with 47 plays of 20-plus yards this season (36 passes and 11 rushes) for an average of 4.7 per game.

The Vikings had four such plays (all passes) and suffered three critical fumbles against the Lions in Week 4. Three went to Stefon Diggs, and one went to Thielen.

Last season, the Vikings had three plays of 20-plus yards (two runs, one pass) in Detroit on Thanksgiving and just two such plays (passes) at home in Week 9.

"You've got to take care of the football, of course," Keenum said. "They don't give you much. We have to sustain drives. We've got to be better on third downs. Those are all points that you try to make every week, but that's going to be the key to this game as well."

Keenum is familiar with Lions safety Glover Quin from their time together with the Houston Texans in 2012.

"They're really sound, especially on the back end," Keenum said. "GQ does a great job of getting those guys lined up. You hardly ever see them busting any coverage, so a lot of the completions against them are versus tight coverage, which is tough. We've got our work cut out for us."

Keenum pointed out that the longest pass play of the season for the Vikings — Thielen's 65-yard catch-and-run touchdown against the Rams — didn't result from trying to force something.

"You want big plays, but a lot of times you can't try to make those things happen," Keenum said. "You have to let those things happen on their own. The pass last week to Adam, we threw a little hitch route and they were in the right coverage, and he made a guy miss and it went 65. You can't force those things. You have to let those things come to you."

Keenum also referenced his Christian faith, which he credits with helping him in challenging situations and helping him lead a huddle.

"It's like praying for patience," Keenum said. "When you pray for patience, it seems like God gives you opportunities to be patient. Those are sometimes challenges that are tough."

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