In Week 1, with Sam Bradford under center, the Minnesota Vikings beat the New Orleans Saints, 29-19, with Bradford completing 84.3 percent of his passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns.
In Week 2, with Case Keenum under center, the Vikings lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 26-9, with Keenum completing 54.0 percent of his passes for 167 yards and Minnesota mustering just one touchdown in four quarters.
All of which is to say there’s a reason why Bradford (knee) is the starter and Keenum is the backup.
Still, how hard is it for backups to come in and lead a team?
“Well, every quarterback is different, and for whatever reason, I was pretty good about coming off the bench with no reps in practice – just running some scout team – and then actually running the offense fairly well,” former NFL QB Sage Rosenfels said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “The other type of backup who plays is what happened this week with Bradford. Bradford did not practice all week, so Case Keenum got an opportunity to run the offense all week. He had the entire game plan, so he was well-prepared for that football game. He didn’t play very well.”
But even with Bradford, the Vikings (1-1) likely would have struggled to beat Pittsburgh (2-0) at Heinz Field, especially given the Steelers’ versatile attack. Ben Roethlisberger finished 23-of-35 for 243 yards and two touchdowns, Antonio Brown had five catches for 62 yards, Martavis Bryant had three catches for 91 yards and a score, and Le’Veon Bell rushed 27 times for 87 yards.
“I don’t know if Sam Bradford plays in that football game against the Steelers if it makes a difference,” Rosenfels said. “The Steelers are probably a top-five team in the NFL. The Vikings are probably somewhere in the middle. So Case Keenum played fine yesterday. Didn’t play great, didn’t play terrible. I don’t think he had a huge impact on the football game. But it does help usually to get those reps during practice throughout the week.”
Especially when the alternative is spontaneously getting thrust into the fire.
“Sam Bradford was injured all week so Case Keenum got those reps. Very different than when a starting quarterback who takes all the reps throughout the week gets hurt in, say, the first quarter,” Rosenfels said. “Now the backup has to come in with taking none of those reps. That’s usually a bigger challenge for backup quarterbacks than the opportunity to go through practice and through all the passes and making all the changes and all the checks and all those things. I thought he played pretty well yesterday.”
The Vikings will return home for each of their next two games. They host Tampa Bay (1-0) and Detroit (1-0) in Weeks 3 and 4, respectively, with both games kicking off at 1 p.m. ET.