Part of the Vikings’ preparation for the Buccaneers on Sunday included watching some film of the Rams’ win over Tampa Bay last season.
“[Case Keenum] was dropping dimes,” receiver Jarius Wright said.
Almost a year ago to the day of Sunday’s kickoff, when Keenum replaces an injured Sam Bradford in the Vikings huddle, Keenum led the Rams in a 37-32 win over the Buccaneers last season. He capped the win with a throw off his back foot to receiver Tavon Austin, who ran the rest of the way for a 43-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Keenum actually has defeated the Buccaneers each of the past two seasons. Throughout his journeyman career with 25 NFL starts, he has succeeded most in those two games against Tampa Bay in which he boasts a combined 118.8 passer rating and 2-0 record.
“We better prepare like crazy for Case,” Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter said on a conference call this week. “He’s beat us the last two years, so we have a ton of respect for him.”
Keenum didn’t play well last week, when he drew the tough start on the road in Pittsburgh. He completed 20 of 37 throws for 167 yards, but Wright said another week of practice with the first-team offense should help.
“If you ask me, Case is ready to go,” Wright said.
Cook seeks fast start
Rookie Dalvin Cook is one of the NFL’s leading rushers with 191 yards through two games, but most of that damage has come in the second half. It’s a good sign Cook has stayed explosive as games wear on, but he said he’s trying to get things going quicker.
“It’s just all about getting comfortable,” Cook said. “I have to get a good jump at that. Starting in the third quarter can’t help my team. I have to start faster in the first quarter. That’s one of the things I’m working on.”
Cook’s average yards per carry through two games has increased by quarter. He’s averaging less than a yard per carry on seven first-quarter attempts and 9.1 yards on 10 fourth-quarter totes.
Difficulty in the duo
The Vikings have given up a couple too many deep passes through two games for coach Mike Zimmer’s liking, including a 51-yard bomb from the Saints and a 49-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Trae Waynes in Pittsburgh.
Sunday might not be any easier against two big-play threats in Buccaneers receivers DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans. The two finished sixth and 16th, respectively, among all NFL receivers in 20-yard receptions last season when Jackson was playing in Washington. Now they’re on the same team with strong-armed quarterback Jameis Winston.
“I think the difficulty is that these two receivers, they’re big-play guys,” Zimmer said. “They were, what, 53 percent on third downs last week? I mean they’re unbelievable.”
Bradford was the only Vikings player held out Friday, a setback after he was a limited participant in five practices since injuring his left knee in the Sept. 11 victory vs. the Saints. Bradford has been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers.
Good news for the Vikings is linebacker Anthony Barr (hamstring) was listed as a full participant in Friday’s practice and was not given a gameday designation on the injury report, so he will play Sunday. He was questionable to play last week, but ended up playing 73 snaps in Pittsburgh.
The Buccaneers could be without a handful of key defenders. Linebacker Kwon Alexander (hamstring) has been ruled out vs. the Vikings. Questionable to play are defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (ankle) and cornerback Brent Grimes (shoulder).