MINNEAPOLIS -- Six years into his NFL career, Case Keenum’s career-best season features highs in passer rating (92.6), touchdowns (four vs. Washington) and passing yards (369 vs. Tampa Bay), just to name a few. He owns the second-most-improved total QBR (plus-35.0) since last season, just shy of former Rams teammate Jared Goff, who has a league-best 35.3 increase since his rookie season.
One area in which the Minnesota Vikings quarterback reigns supreme is against added pressure. Keenum has the best total QBR against the blitz at 94, according to ESPN Stats & Information. His yards per attempt (9.3) and completion percentage (63) are higher against the blitz than when he faces a standard pass rush.
Against the Redskins, Keenum finished 12-of-18 for 167 yards, two touchdowns (one to Adam Thielen, another to Stefon Diggs) and an interception against the blitz, which tied a career high for his most completions in those situations in a game. It was just the third time in his career that he threw multiple touchdowns against the blitz.
“Case just makes it happen. He finds a way,” Diggs said. “Especially back there when he gets to running around a little bit. He just creates some things. As a receiver, you just try to get open and stay open ... and try to be at the right place at the right time for him. He’s going to trust you to make the play. You just have to be there.”
So, what’s the reason for his success in these situations? Keenum’s mobility certainly allows the Vikings to get creative and stress defensive coverages, particularly when more defenders are sent in to pressure his throws. But much credit is due to where his protections are, including the running backs entrusted with pass protection.
“The first thing about that is picking up the blitz,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “We’ve done a nice job protectionwise. Jerick [McKinnon] had a couple of nice blocks in there. Latavius [Murray] did, as well, and we’re changing up protections. I think that has helped Case quite a bit, as far as if we end up seeing some blitzes and being able to change protections to different things. I think [offensive coordinator] Pat [Shurmur] does a good job of understanding the tendencies of the team that he’s playing, and working either man-beaters or zone-beaters or maximum-protection things. It’s been good.”
Keenum has been sacked only five times this season, one of which came against the blitz. He has been sacked on only 1.8 percent of his dropbacks this season, which is on pace to be the lowest sack percentage since Peyton Manning in 2009 (1.7 percent).
There’s a good chance Keenum will be put to the test in similar situations in Week 11. The Los Angeles Rams have the fourth-highest blitz rate in the NFL, sending in five or more rushers on 39.2 percent of opponents' dropbacks this season.
While Keenum has outperformed other quarterbacks against the blitz, he has struggled recently against a standard four-man pass-rush. According to Pro Football Focus, Keenum attempted 2.7 yards per throw against this pressure in Washington and had a 12.0 passer rating when the pass rush got to him.
When Keenum throws from the pocket with no duress this season, he’s completing 68.5 percent of his passes. Though that seems to be a strong figure, it actually ranks 15th in the league.