1. Keenum’s ‘fearless play’
Case Keenum with only one interception in 159 attempts is hard to believe. He plays with a fearlessness that would suggest more mishaps than the one he threw in Sunday’s 23-10 victory over the Packers. But one of the main reasons he’s here is accuracy. Sunday, he slung a ball 42 yards to a triple-covered Adam Thielen and got a pass interference call. “He’s an extremely competitive guy,” Thielen said. “I think that’s why he’s able to make those plays.” Keenum lacks ideal arm strength, but knows how to change speeds for the situation. On a 16-yard completion to Kyle Rudolph, Keenum threw a looping changeup that floated over safety Kentrell Brice and dropped in front of safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. “He makes all the throws,” Rudolph said. “You can’t be afraid to make a throw. Keep him on his feet, he’ll make every throw.”
2. Packers’ empty challenges
Packers coach Mike McCarthy mishandled his team’s replay challenges, ran out of them with 4:10 left in the first half and regretted it twice in the second half. McCarthy’s first challenge was successful. It overturned a 14-yard completion to Rudolph early in the second quarter. Eight minutes later, McCarthy challenged a 20-yard completion to Thielen, who clearly got a hand and an elbow down inbounds. Per NFL rules, a coach has to win two to get a final one. In the second half, McCarthy was unable to challenge a third-down catch in which Jerick McKinnon clearly used the ground to trap the ball. Harrison Smith’s interception in the fourth quarter was another play that might have been overturned had McCarthy not used up all his challenges.
3. Another game, another catch?
Seems the NFL can’t go a week without stopping the game and causing everyone to wonder what in the world really constitutes a catch in this league. The Packers thought they had an 8-yard touchdown pass to running back Ty Montgomery on third-and-goal with 1:57 left in the first half. That would have tied the score at 14. It was one of the few plays the Vikings defense mishandled. Neither middle linebacker Eric Kendricks nor safety Anthony Harris were in position to make the play. Montgomery had a wide-open path to the goal line. However, upon further review, the officials determined he never had full possession as he crossed the goal line and planted the ball in the end zone. “It looked like he didn’t have control to me,” Harris said. Packers fans probably feel the other way.
4. Fortunately, Zimmer a step slow
Who was that dark-clad, 61-year-old man racing down the Vikings sideline on third-and-goal with 7:30 left in the first half? None other than Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. With the play clock near zero, Zimmer was trying to get the referee’s attention so he could call timeout. Fortunately for the Vikings, Zimmer was too slow. Keenum got the ball snapped in time. He handed off to McKinnon, who scored for a 14-7 lead. “Yeah,” Zimmer said, “the clock was running down and I didn’t want to get a penalty. We snapped it at 1 [second], I think.” That wasn’t Zimmer’s only good fortune. He won with four starters — Sam Bradford, Stefon Diggs, Nick Easton and Andrew Sendejo — sidelined. Meanwhile, the decimated Packers not only lost Aaron Rodgers, but were down to first-year backup guard Justin McCray playing left tackle.
5. What’s wrong with Latavius?
Sorry, but when I watch Latavius Murray, I’m starting to see what looks like an older version of what Adrian Peterson was giving the Vikings last year. But Murray is five years younger than Adrian. In Oakland last year, Murray averaged 4.0 yards per carry with 12 touchdowns. He came here with high hopes that were put on hold when he was nursing a surgically repaired ankle while rookie Dalvin Cook was exploding onto the scene. But then Cook went down for the season, giving Murray another shot. Then McKinnon blew past him. Murray was averaging 2.7 yards on only 26 carries going into Sunday’s game. He expressed disappointment in himself last week. Perhaps with more carries, he’d get into more of a rhythm? Well, the Vikings gave him a season-high 15 carries. He produced a season-low average of 1.9 yards.