MINNEAPOLIS — Case Keenum gave Minnesota a brilliant performance in relief of Sam Bradford, passing for three touchdowns and a career-high 369 yards without a turnover to guide the Vikings to a 34-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Stefon Diggs had 173 yards receiving and caught two of Keenum’s throws for scores, one short and one long.
Dalvin Cook produced 169 total yards plus his first NFL touchdown, which capped a 75-yard drive by the Vikings (2-1) to start the game.
They never slowed down, building a 28-3 lead by early in the third quarter on their way to compiling 494 yards.
Trae Waynes and Harrison Smith each picked off Jameis Winston in the end zone, and Andrew Sendejo returned an interception 36 yards in the fourth quarter to set up one of two field goals by Kai Forbath.
Shadowed by Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes, Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans had a quiet game with seven catches for 67 yards. When the offence returned to the sideline following Winston’s third interception, Evans was shown on the TV broadcast angrily shoving over a trash can by the bench.
DeSean Jackson and Cameron Brate each had four receptions and a touchdown while Winston completed 28 of 40 passes for 328 yards, but the Buccaneers (1-1) simply couldn’t overcome having to play from behind all afternoon. They converted only one of six third downs.
Keenum, meanwhile, went 25 for 33 in the third 300-yard game of his career. With Bradford out for the second straight game because of an ailing left knee, the undrafted former practice squad player with 26 starts in six NFL seasons took full advantage of a Buccaneers defence depleted by injuries.
Well protected by a vastly improved offensive line, Keenum was not sacked and only occasionally hurried. He put on a play-action passing clinic, finding Diggs and fellow wide receiver Adam Thielen (five catches, 98 yards) open at will.
PASS THE BUCS
Keenum has beaten the Buccaneers in three straight seasons, the past two with the Rams. His totals: 53 for 76 (69.7 per cent) for 793 yards, seven touchdowns and just one interception with three sacks.
With widespread rebuke around the league toward President Donald Trump for his obscene criticism of the kneeling by players during the national anthem in protest of social injustice, Evans and Jackson each took a knee with a hand on their heart in front of the bench as the "Star Spangled Banner" played. Other Bucs players locked arms in solidarity.
Nobody was kneeling on the Vikings sideline, but many players also stood arm in arm, with owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf and general manager Rick Spielman joining them. Right before the anthem played, about a dozen Vikings ran to the west end zone and knelt with their heads bowed, including Cook, Diggs and Thielen.
Already without three starters for health reasons, defensive tackle Chris Baker, linebacker Kwon Alexander and cornerback Brent Grimes, the Buccaneers defence took even more hits during the game. Backup defensive end Noah Spence was in and out with a shoulder injury.
Standout defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who was limited this week in practice by an ankle problem, limped off twice in the second half before returning from each absence.
Then linebacker Lavonte David was lost in potentially the biggest blow. He had the back of his leg rolled on inadvertently by a Vikings player during a scrum around the ball in the fourth quarter and left the field on a cart.
The Buccaneers host the New York Giants on Sunday.
The Vikings stay at home to face the Detroit Lions on Sunday.