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Case Keenum and Adam Thielen showed the Vikings can win with offense

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It won’t be every Sunday, but teams that compete for championships with defense win games like these.

Minnesota Vikings v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings moved to 7-2 on the season after a 38-30 win over Washington on Sunday. Teddy Bridgewater’s return to the sideline was a big storyline of the afternoon, but Case Keenum and Adam Thielen had performances that made you forget it.

That’s not to say that Bridgewater won’t ever get his job back, or that it doesn’t matter that he was on the sideline Sunday. Seeing his emotion prior to the game tugged at everyone’s heart strings. At some point, we all expect that he will once again be taking snaps under center. Bridgewater was a good player when he went down, and this Vikings team would be the most talented he’s ever played with.

But Keenum has earned the right to hang onto the job for now. He hasn’t done anything to lose it. Thielen has been a big part of that. The duo showed why the Vikings are going to ride this thing until the wheels fall off, just as they should.

Keenum has been a game-manager, but showed he can also win a game

Before their bye, I wrote that the Vikings would have to rely mostly on good defense to finish the regular season strong, and go deep into the postseason. There’s nothing wrong with that. On Sunday, Keenum showed that he’s also capable of those breakout games where he can win them himself.

Even the strongest units in pro football have their bad days. The Vikings’ defense gave up 30 points to Washington with Everson Griffen sidelined, and Keenum was still able to help the Vikings pull out the win.

Keenum completed 21 of 29 passes for 304 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions. Sure, those two interceptions aren’t a great look, but the Vikings offense was moving. Keenum threw three touchdowns in the second quarter alone.

Coming into Sunday’s game, Keenum had very game-manager type numbers. A career-high 63.9 completion percentage to go along with his 1,610 yards, an average of 6.9 yards per attempt, seven touchdowns, and three interceptions. But even the game managers have their moments. After all, Tim Tebow threw for 300 yards in a playoff game with two touchdown passes once.

But Keenum is better.

Thielen might be even better than you think

For a moment, it looked like Adam Thielen could get his second 200-yard game as a Viking. Not even the great Randy Moss did that. On Sunday, he became the third player in the NFL this season to have yet another 150-plus yard receiving game. The other two? T.Y. Hilton and Antonio Brown.

Ever since Thielen broke out last season, he’s been one of the best receivers in the league. He had 69 receptions for 967 yards, including a 202-yard effort against the Packers in Week 16, and five touchdowns on a Vikings team that went 8-8. He’s on pace to eclipse all of his numbers from last season, aside from the touchdowns, but it’s still very much attainable. His lone touchdown from Sunday put him at two on the season with seven more games to go.

The intriguing part about Thielen is that he’s not just another good wide receiver. He can rack up double-digit receptions with the best of them, but that’s not what makes his game special. He makes big plays, which is something that a team like the Vikings, who aren’t known for their offense, needs.

Three of his receptions Sunday went for 38, 37, and 49 yards. The big plays are exciting, but they’re also needed when the offense might be struggling to move the ball otherwise.

You don’t have to be loyal to the Vikings to be a fan of Thielen’s. He went undrafted out of Minnesota State in 2013, and has had an incredible emergence. He’s also a big reason why his hometown team is 7-2.

The Vikings’ identity isn’t going to change this season, unless Teddy Bridgewater comes in and makes a splash like none of us saw coming this season. That’s fine, but Keenum and Thielen put on one hell of a show on Sunday. It also proves that there’s no reason to rush Bridgewater back.

We already had an idea that the NFC North was going to be theirs to lose after Aaron Rodgers went down, but seeing that they have a performance like Sunday’s in them makes you have to consider them a real threat in the NFC.

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