By: Rich Lord (@RichLordSR610)
Long before last week’s miraculous walk-off touchdown pass in Minnesota from Case Keenum to Stefon Diggs in a divisional round playoff game against the Saints, the folks we’ve grown to refer to as, “Keenum truthers” fully believed that Keenum was something special. No need to convince fans of the Houston Cougars, who watched as Keenum became the only quarterback in college football history to put up 3 separate 5,000 yard passing seasons as well as set college football records for most career touchdown passes (155), completions (1,546) and passing yards (19,217). All records that stand to this day. After an early-season torn ACL ended what was supposed to be his final year at UH, he was granted an extra year of eligibility and made the most of it by leading the Cougars to a 12-0 regular season record. Long before that, football fans in his hometown of Abilene had jumped on the Keenum bandwagon after he became the only quarterback in the history of Abilene Wylie high school to lead the Bulldogs to their first, and only, Texas high school football state championship. In some parts of Texas, Keenum is a pretty big deal.
Now, after orchestrating the only walk-off TD in the long, storied history of the NFL playoffs, he’s a pretty big deal in the universe of unforgettable NFL playoff moments. The enormity of the touchdown pass to beat the Saints is only magnified when you take into account how far Keenum has come to put himself in position to make such a play. Undrafted out of UH, he signed on as a college free agent with the Houston Texans, made the team, bided his time on the practice squad for a year, then went 0-8 for a 2-14 Houston team going through a nightmare season. After that? Keenum was waived to make room for……Ryan Mallet. Ouch. 2 stints with the Rams, sandwiched around a second go-round with the Texans in which he was hired out of a deer stand in Missouri to re-join Houston in midseason, continued a bumpy career trajectory for Keenum.
Keenum landed in Minnesota this season on a 1-year deal to back up Sam Bradford. After Bradford was injured, all Keenum did was pass for more than 3,500 yards, win 12 games against just 3 losses and lead the Vikings to the #2 seed in the NFC. He also threw a career-high 22 touchdown passes (against just 7 interceptions). Not bad for a guy who’s about to become an unrestricted free agent.
Before the playoffs began, Keenum had already set himself up for a decent payday. If he manages to win 1 or 2 more games, his payday could be a lot better than decent. As for the game-winning play known in Minnesota’s playbook as, “Seven Heaven,” the Vikings had blown a 17-point lead in the final 17 minutes and allowed a go-ahead field goal with 29 seconds left. Minnesota was down two points and faced a third-and-10 on it’s own 39-yard line with no timeouts and 10 seconds left on the clock. Here’s what it sounded like when Kevin Harlan and Trent Green made the call on SportsRadio 610:
Immortality achieved. There have been many, many unforgettable playoff moments in the 97-year history of the NFL and this one stands shoulder-to-shoulder with every one of them.
David Tyree was immortalized by the, “Helmet Catch” in Super Bowl XLII. Franco Harris will forever be associated with, “The Immaculate Reception.” Say the names Joe Montana and Dwight Clark and you think of, “The Catch.” Frank Wychek and Kevin Dyson? “The Music City Miracle.” The Drive? John Elway. “The Fumble?” Earnest Byner. “The Ice Bowl?” Bart Starr’s quarterback sneak to beat the Cowboys. The list goes on and on.
Whether you choose to call it, “The Minnesota Miracle,” “The Minnesota Marvel,” or just simply, “Seven Heaven,” the names Case Keenum and Stefon Diggs will forever be associated with the conclusion of a truly miraculous game. One that featured a mind-boggling 4 lead changes in the final 3 minutes. And one decided by a play that no one will ever forget, thus qualifying the kid from Abilene Wylie as immortal, in a football sort of way.