|Goff, Keenum face off as Rams battle Vikings|
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jared Goff stood at the podium in front of reporters and understandably felt a bit of deja vu. The Los Angeles Rams' young quarterback was being asked about Case Keenum, an occurrence that caused Goff to say you could rewind his answers from last season.
This is 2017 and very different circumstances, though.
The Goff-Keenum connection takes on new meaning as Goff and the Rams face Keenum with the Vikings in Minnesota this weekend.
"I shot him a text the other day and we're both excited for it," Goff told reporters Wednesday. "It will be fun. Get a chance to see him again and just get a chance to say hi to him, see how he's doing. He's been doing so well this year and as a guy, there's not a guy you could be more happy for."
The two have come a long way since last year's messy first season in Los Angeles for the Rams when Keenum was the placeholder for Goff, the rookie No. 1 pick in the draft. Both are thriving this season in different situations as they meet as fellow starters this week.
Goff is making good on the promise of being the top pick in the draft thanks to coach Sean McVay, an offensive line that includes newcomers in left tackle Andrew Whitworth and former Vikings center John Sullivan, and some new receivers in Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins.
Los Angeles is 7-2 and leading the NFC West as Goff has completed 61.2 percent of his passes for 2,385 yards, 16 touchdowns, four interceptions and a 101.5 quarterback rating. He leads the NFL averaging 8.5 yards per pass attempt.
"He's a smart kid, man," Keenum said.
"He's a fighter, too, because it wasn't easy last year. He got the crap knocked out of him a few times and got back up and can sling it. Obviously, everybody's seeing what he can do this year, but we've known for a long time he's a really good player."
Keenum is staking a claim on Minnesota's starting job after replacing injured Sam Bradford earlier this season and holding on despite Teddy Bridgewater's return to the active roster last week.
After taking plenty of questions last year about starting in place of Goff to begin the season, Keenum is facing similar questions this time around. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer announced Wednesday that Keenum would keep the starting job heading into Sunday's game against the Rams.
"I'm trying to win ballgames," Keenum said.
"I'm doing the best I can. That's showing up every day and doing my job. That's protecting the football. Obviously, that's learning from my mistakes. That's continuing to do things well that I do well. But I think all that stuff, that's just storylines for you guys to talk about. I don't pay attention to it."
Keenum has a 92.6 quarterback rating and a 64.9 completion percentage while throwing for 1,914 yards, with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions in eight games and seven starts for Minnesota. The Vikings (7-2) lead the NFC North.
If Zimmer had any intention of starting Bridgewater this week, he might have changed his plans after Keenum threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns last week.
"That was part of it," Zimmer said, adding that the decision was "not difficult."
Sunday isn't just about Goff and Keenum. The quarterbacks will be facing strong defenses.
A year after allowing 24.6 points per game (23rd in the NFL), Los Angeles is tied for third in scoring defense this year. The Rams have allowed 18 points per game, while Minnesota's continued run of good defense under Zimmer has the Vikings allowing 18.3 points per game.
Los Angeles, in its first year with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, also has an NFL-high 19 takeaways after getting four in last week's win against Houston.
"He's a good coach and he tries to take away your good guys," Zimmer said of Phillips. "The whole deal is pressure on the quarterback. They've got five first-rounders in the front seven, so they have a lot of good players. They try and get after the quarterback, play good in coverage in the back end."
The Rams are tied for fifth in the NFL with 28 sacks, led by Aaron Donald's five.
"I think he's underrated," Keenum said of Donald. "Even though he's player of the year, rookie of the year, I still think he's underrated because I think he's that good. We've got our work cut out for us. I'm excited. It's a good challenge."
Minnesota's defense has 25 sacks, good for 10th in the league, and 11 takeaways.
"Yeah, they're tremendous on defense," Goff said. "No weaknesses really, at every spot. Up front, the D-line, the linebackers are real good and the secondary, they're really special too."
Everson Griffen, who missed last week's game with a foot injury, has 10 sacks. Griffen practiced on a limited basis on Wednesday and is expected to return for Sunday's game. Right tackle Mike Remmers also returned to practice after missing last week's game with a concussion.
Los Angeles had a lengthy injury list early in the week as McVay decided to rest Sullivan, Whitworth, and linebackers Connor Barwin and Mark Barron. Guard Roger Saffold was held out with an ankle injury, and linebacker Robert Quinn has been dealing with an illness. But McVay said he expects most of the group to Sunday.
"This time of the year want to be smart with our guys," McVay told reporters.
"We trimmed off some of the reps, had a little bit more of an above-the-neck emphasis with our walkthrough. That's kind of to-be-expected."