Vikings best Tampa Bay 34-17
MINNEAPOLIS -- Maybe it was the extra week of practice with the first team.
Or maybe it was a softer defensive opponent. Or maybe it was the home cooking.
Whatever the reason, Case Keenum looked like a new man Sunday, Sept. 24, tossing three touchdown passes while leading the Minnesota Vikings to a 34-17 win over former division rival Tampa Bay.
Stefon Diggs hauled in two of those touchdown catches and combined with Adam Thielen to create a potent 1-2 aerial punch thrown by Keenum, who shined filling in for the injured Sam Bradford after a dismal game at Pittsburgh last week.
“We knew Sam wasn’t going to play at an earlier point this week, so we kind of prepped the game plan more towards Case,” Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said. “I thought they did a great job, I thought (offensive coordinator) Pat (Shurmur) did a great job calling the game.”
Keenum’s 369 yards in the game was a career high. An early shot downfield on the game’s third play, a 45-yard pass to Thielen, helped settle the quarterback down, Keenum said.
“He made a heck of a play,” Keenum said of the Detroit Lakes, Minn., receiver. “To be able to do that early, and to be able to get points on the board right out of the gates, I think that helps everybody. The defense is really, really tough, and they’re really tough when playing ahead.”
Dalvin Cook capped off that opening drive with a 1-yard dive for his first career touchdown. Cook finished the game with 167 total yards -- 97 rushing on 27 carries, 72 receiving on five catches.
“He’s a tremendous back, we are lucky to have him,” said safety Harrison Smith. “For a rookie, he seems extremely composed. He just knows how to do the right things.”
Keenum hit Jarius Wright for his first touchdown of the game, and later turned a Trae Waynes interception into a six-play, 92-yard drive capped off with Diggs’ first touchdown catch.
“To see (Keenum) go out there, make some passes and have confidence in his receivers… we came out swinging,” Diggs said. “And when we saw our quarterback come out with that energy, we tried to match it.”
The Vikings defense, after being unable to force a turnover in the first two games of the season, picked off Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston three times, with defensive backs Waynes, Smith and Andrew Sendejo creating the turnovers.
“Bad decisions,” Winston said of the interceptions. “At the end of the day, I make the final decision on where the ball goes, and I have got to protect the football at all costs, no matter what they do.”
The early scoring by Minnesota (2-1) forced Tampa Bay (1-1) to move away from its running game, Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter said. The Bucs finished with just 26 yards rushing.
“I think we got beat in every way you can get beat today,” Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter said. “Hats off to the Vikings, they did a great job. Not good enough in any aspect by us.”