The morning after each Vikings game, beat writer Ben Goessling dives in for a deeper look at a key aspect of how the Vikings played, and what it means for the team going forward:
For the second straight season, the Vikings turned to an unexpected starting quarterback after a knee injury took out the centerpiece of their offense. And while the numbers Sam Bradford put up in 2016 were slightly better than the ones Case Keenum posted in 2017, Keenum’s season was certainly more unexpected, and ultimately more consequential.
Keenum finished the 2017 regular season with 3,547 passing yards, completing 67.6 percent of his passes for 22 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 14 games (including 13 starts). His passer rating of 98.1 came in slightly behind the 99.3 figure Bradford posted last year, but according to ESPN, Keenum’s Total QBR rating (69.9) was the second-best in the NFL, behind Carson Wentz’s 75.7 figure. Bradford, who set a NFL completion percentage record last year in an offense that needed short passes to compensate for an anemic run game, had a 53.1 QBR, which was 17th in the NFL.
It will be determined in the coming months whether Keenum’s performance was enough to keep him in the Vikings’ long-term plans ahead of Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater. But while Keenum had a better supporting cast in 2017 than either Bradford in 2016 or Bridgewater in 2015, it’s difficult to argue either first-round pick has posted a better season in Minnesota than Keenum did in 2017.
Here are some other Vikings statistics of note at the conclusion of the regular season:
–Adam Thielen assured himself of a $1 million salary escalator in 2018 by surpassing 90 catches. Thielen also put himself in position to boost his 2019 and 2020 salaries by an extra $1 million; if he hits salary escalators in either of those seasons by catching at least 70 passes, he’ll earn an additional $1 million in each of those seasons based on what he did in 2017. His 91 catches are tied for the seventh-most in team history, and his 1,276 yards are the ninth-most.
–Everson Griffen, who posted 10 sacks in the first eight games of the season, finished with a career-high 13 for the season. Griffen, who was named to his third Pro Bowl team, was one of three players to reach double-digit sacks in the first half of the season; Dallas’ Demarcus Lawrence and Jacksonville’s Calais Campbell also tapered off in the second half, while Arizona’s Chandler Jones (who had eight sacks in the first half) finished with 17 for the season.
–Griffen is seventh in team history with 61 sacks, while Brian Robison — who posted his fourth sack of the season on Sunday — is tied with Kevin Williams for ninth at 60.
–Stefon Diggs, who finished with 64 receptions, reached 200 receptions faster than any player in Vikings history. Diggs reached the milestone in 40 games, two fewer than Randy Moss and Percy Harvin. Diggs finished the year with 849 yards and a career-high eight touchdowns.
–Latavius Murray ended the season as the Vikings’ leading rusher, with 842 yards on 216 carries. Murray, who scored two one-yard TDs on Sunday, ended the year tied for sixth in the NFL with eight rushing touchdowns. He missed out on a $500,000 incentive for 2017 and a $500,000 salary escalator for 2018 by falling short of 900 rushing yards.
–Jerick McKinnon, who finished with 991 yards from scrimmage, rushed for 570 and posted 421 receiving yards on 51 catches. He missed out on becoming the first Vikings running back with 500 rushing and 500 receiving yards since Moe Williams did it in 2003.
–Harrison Smith matched his career high with five interceptions, finishing tied for fifth in the NFL and second in the NFC. Smith shared the spot with Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea.
–The 2017 Vikings are the third team in franchise history, and the first since 1970, to lead the league in yards and points allowed.