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Bleacher Report – Vikings

To beat Eagles, Case Keenum must cut down risky plays

By Matthew Coller

Case Keenum’s ability to make plays outside the pocket and create on the fly has created some of the best moments of the Minnesota Vikings’ season.

There was his throw on the run for a touchdown to Adam Thielen in London, a 22-yard run against Chicago, another wild throw with pressure in his face to Thielen against the Rams and on and on. But, as Vikings fans are well aware from having watched Brett Favre throw across the middle of the field in the 2009 NFC title game, the gunslinger mentality can do as much damage as good.

Keenum’s gunslinging nearly kept the Vikings from being in the NFC Championship.

With the way it ended – on a 61-yard touchdown to Stefon Diggs – it’s easy to forget about the other 59:35 of last Sunday’s game. There were certainly some good moments for Keenum. He completed a pass to Diggs in which he roamed the pocket for over 10 seconds. He also picked up 54 yards on Defensive Pass Interference calls against the Saints on long bombs down the field. Without being wiling to throw it up, the Vikings don’t get those calls.

But there were also mistakes that can’t be repeated this Sunday against the league’s fifth best defense in Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt and seventh in quarterback rating against.

On the first drive of the second half, the Vikings were en route to increasing their lead to a cool 20-0 when Keenum took a sack to take his team out of field goal position. Head coach Mike Zimmer mentioned the play Monday press conference as a miscue that his team would have to clean up.

“We can’t make these mistakes in playoff games or we’ll be going home,” Zimmer said. “There’s always good and always bad in some of the games, but we made some critical errors in that game that could have gotten us beat.”

The play came on third-and-4 at the Saints 30-yard line. The defensive end and defensive tackle stunt and Cameron Jordan gets pressure on Keenum. For a split second he looks in the direction of Kyle Rudolph, but instead tries to pull the ball down and escape the pocket. But the defensive tackle is right there to greet him for a 10-yard loss.

Certainly everything looks easier on tape, but a more conservative play like throwing it at the feet of Jerick McKinnon or Rudolph would have allowed the Vikings a makable kick.

Following a Saints touchdown drive, Keenum gave the ball right back to Drew Brees on a floating throw in Diggs’ direction – the type of throw that Zimmer had openly worried about when Keenum nearly let Washington come back in a game earlier this season with two ugly interceptions.

Again, Keenum could have thrown the ball into the ground in front of McKinnon, but instead attempted a back-foot throw into coverage. Marcus Williams cruised in and picked the pass off easily.

Brees took advantage again, scoring another touchdown six plays later.

The forgotten play that nearly ended the game for the Vikings came late in the fourth quarter came after Adam Thielen made an all-world, 24-yard catch to put the Vikings in Kai Forbath’s range.

For once, the Saints guarded Diggs on an underneath crossing route, forcing Keenum to look for other options. Pressured from his back side, he flipped the ball in the air in the direction of Rudolph, who was blanketed down the sideline. Williams was again lurking in the secondary. Had the ball been another foot to the left, Williams would have picked it off and won the game for the Saints.

Since the ball landed on the ground, Forbath nailed the kick and Diggs scored the touchdown, it was easy to forget – at least for everyone but Zimmer.

Considering the Eagles are playing backup quarterback Nick Foles, the Vikings should feel they have a great chance to earn a spot in the Super Bowl, but Philadelphia will take advantage of mistakes. The Eagles have 11 interceptions this year at home and they just held Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons to 10 points.

In a game that could be defined by mistakes, if Keenum takes on more of a “game manager” role than “gunslinger,” the Vikings have a better chance to walk out of Philly as winners.

The post To beat Eagles, Case Keenum must cut down risky plays appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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