Looks like Vikings won QB shuffle in a landslide
ST. PAUL — As the NFL's two worst rushing teams prepare for a titanic showdown at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 14, let's check in with the "Never Cousins" crowd.
The Vikings enter the weekend 2-2-1 and back in the postseason picture after a gut-check, 23-21 victory at Philadelphia that really wasn't that close. Dan Bailey sealed the win with a clutch 52-yard field goal, but only because he missed attempts of 28 and 45 yards in the first quarter.
Otherwise, the Vikings beat the defending Super Bowl champions pretty comfortably because despite a running game averaging 65.8 yards a game — second-worst in the 32-team NFL — Kirk Cousins marched the offense up and down Lincoln Financial Field.
For those who might have blocked it out, Lincoln Financial was the site of a 38-7 loss in the NFC Championship last January. Case Keenum was the Vikings' quarterback in that game, and while he led the team on a touchdown drive to start the game, he didn't account for himself particularly well.
Still, he was 11-3 as the starter in regular-season games, and there were those who believed letting Keenum go was at least stupid and at worst spitting in the eye of the football gods: The Vikings have had enough trouble finding a starting quarterback; why get rid of one who comes off the bench and leads you to the playoffs? Why, it's ungrateful!
As noted here previously, that's no way to run a professional football team.
At the end of last season, the Vikings had three quarterbacks who had started, and won, games for them over the previous few years. They let all of them go to sign Cousins, and it couldn't have gone much better so far. Through five games, Cousins, 29, ranks second in passing with 1,688 total yards — right behind the Rams' Jared Goff and just ahead of Ben Roethlisberger.
Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater are wearing new uniforms, and only Keenum is still playing football after leading the Denver Broncos to a 2-3 record with five touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Broncos have lost three straight, and Keenum's quarterback rating is a career-worst 33.2.
Bradford has not just been benched in Arizona but made the third-stringer so the Cardinals could deactivate him on game days and save on a bonus that pays him $312,500 for each game he is active. Bridgewater, Drew Brees' backup in New Orleans, hasn't thrown a pass in one mop-up appearance.
This isn't to say Bradford and Bridgewater could not have started and played better for Minnesota but safe to say that 99 percent of Vikings fans are glad they're not living in that alternate universe.
The Cardinals signed Bradford to a two-year deal worth $20 million a season and his former teammates expected to play against him Sunday when the schedule was released. But after Bradford passed for 400 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions, Arizona moved on with rookie Josh Rosen.
"That's how it happens," Vikings safety Harrison Smith said Wednesday. "That's how it is at every position; it can change second by the second."
Meanwhile, Broncos fans are debating whether it's time to bench Keenum, who passed for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns against seven interceptions for the Vikings last season. Keenum already has seven interceptions this season, and five touchdowns.
The Vikings paid more for Cousins, a three-year deal for an NFL-record $84 million guaranteed, but unlike Keenum and Bradford, he's performing as hoped — on pace for more than 5,000 passing yards and 35 touchdowns while completing 71.2 percent of his passes.
If you still doubt Cousins, it's personal; if you still wish one of the other guys were here, it's insanity.