Sean Pendergast

NFL Playoff Miracle: The Case Keenum Play — 4 Winners, 4 Losers

Case Keenum is now etched in NFL history with one of the great playoff finishes.
Case Keenum is now etched in NFL history with one of the great playoff finishes. Screen grab from YouTube
In a way, this season's NFL playoffs have been the ultimate irony. In a season which has been embodied by declining television ratings, national anthem protests, mistrust between the players and owners, and woefully half-baked concussion protocol, these NFL playoffs have been (from a drama standpoint, at least) exactly what the league needed.

Of course, there's still a chance we wind up with a Super Bowl pitting Blake Bortles against Nick Foles, so hold the phone on the entire postseason being some sort of cleansing agent for football in 2017, but the playoffs thus far, aside from one game — the Patriots' 35-14 thumping of the Titans — have been a lot of fun. In these eight games, the best came last, as the Minnesota Vikings' (and Cougar hero) Case Keenum dialed up some magic to lead an impossible, literal last second comeback 29-24 win over the New Orleans Saints.

If you haven't seen it yet, here it is. If you've already seen it, relive it....

The Vikings now move onto Philadelphia to fave the top seeded Eagles, but will do so as a 3.5 point favorite, as the Eagles are rolling with Nick Foles, their backup QB, in light of Carson Went's injury. Plays like Keenum's touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs create lasting impressions and create (or crush) legacies. Let's examine the play in more detail....


4. Live atmosphere of a sports book
So I had already gone 1-2 on my first three picks of the weekend, and in the final game of the four NFL playoff games, this one between the Vikings and Saints, the Saints led 24-23. Therefore, with a pick of Saints +4, at least I knew I would break even for the weekend.... and then the play in that video up above happened.... and a game the Saints were going to win outright went from a Saints outright win and cover to not just a Vikings outright win, but a cover as well, IF you had the spread at four points. There were some poor Vikings souls that got the Vikings at -5.5, so watching Keenum take a knee on the extra point had to be especially painful for them. In the end, one thing is abundantly clear — that would have been the ultimate ending to watch in a sportsbook and see all of the reaction to that money changing hands.

3. Fans of obscure stats
So now we have a postseason where the four quarterbacks are as follows — Tom Brady, future Hall of Famer; Blake Bortles, first round bust who is considered "trash" by his peers; Nick Foles, career backup who can't throw more than ten yards down the field; Case Keenum, spunky overachiever. So prepare for several tweets like this over the next six days, in which you're told about Tom Brady piling up more of some really important statistic than the other three have COMBINED in some far less important statistic...

2. Mike Zimmer
As the story goes, Zimmer was fairly far down the list of potential candidates to take over in Minnesota when he got the job back in 2014, the same year, coincidentally, that Bill O'Brien took over the Houston Texans. Four full regular seasons in, Zimmer is considered to have done a pretty good job in resurrecting the Vikings, navigating some tough QB injury luck along the way. His only playoff game to this point had been a heartbreaking loss on a chip shot field goal miss against the Seahawks in 2015. If the Vikings had lost again at home as favorites, the rumblings would begin about how Zimmer has been good in the regular season, but can't get it done in the playoffs. I would say this win makes up for losing on a 27-yard chip shot miss two seasons ago.

1. Case Keenum
It's hard to find a player that is easier to root for and for whom to feel happy about than Case Keenum. It's impossible to find someone who has a bad thing to say about the guy as a person. It is now getting harder to find people who say bad things about as a quarterback. Much harder. Keenum has taken his future income from decent backup to top tier backup to around third tier starter money over just a couple months. If I set the over-under for Keenum's 2018 income at $15 million, what would you take? (NOTE: I would take the OVER because I am going to guess the Vikings bring him back on the franchise tag — around $20 million or so for one year — so they can roll with him for one more year before seeing if there should be any long-term commitment. I think he's earned that much.)


4. Marcus Williams, Saints safety
Man, what a horrific way and ironic way for the Saints' season to end. Williams and fellow rookie defensive back Marshon Lattimore have been a huge reason for the Saints' culture change on the defensive side of the football. Williams had four picks in the regular season and a huge one on Sunday to help get the Saints back into the game. But man, that missed tackle on Diggs will go down as one of the worst plays in NFL postseason history, in part because it was the rare physical AND mental error, horrible tacking form on a play where he didn't even need to make a real tackle. All he needed to do was keep Diggs in bounds, get in his way, and let everyone else clean up the mess.

3. Marcus Williams, Texans cornerback
It just so happens that the Texans have a defensive back with the exact same name as the Saints' safety who blew the final play. I can only imagine what his Twitter mentions must look like with Saints fans coming after him thinking he is THEIR Marcus Williams. The Texans' Williams is probably on a beach in Cabo somewhere and his phone is vibrating like a sex toy.

2. Those with "Keenumite" fatigue
Keenum, until this season, had always been a mediocre to slightly below average quarterback, by any metric you care to use. What made evaluating him and critiquing him so infuriating was the vocal minority of Keenum truthers who felt he was somehow getting a raw deal. This phenomenon has only been exacerbated by his recent success, and in Houston, it's put Bill O'Brien in the crosshairs of a "Why did the Texans ever let go of  Case?" narrative. First, it WAS O'Brien who pulled Case out of a deer lease in 2014 to go 2-0 when nobody in the league wanted him, except the Rams on their practice squad. Second, the league weighed in this offseason when Keenum was a free agent, and they determined that, at that time, he was worth a one year, $2 million contract. This is two years AFTER O'Brien traded him back to the Rams for a seventh round pick. (To be fair, maybe Case got slightly better offers elsewhere, but the point is, nobody thought he would become THIS.) This coming offseason, the referendum on Case will yield life-changing money, perhaps five to seven times what he's seen in previous seasons. Can we all just get to a point where we can agree that this career trajectory is just not normal, all acknowledge Case was not worth keeping three seasons ago, but has worked to become a good quarterback since then? Nobody could see this coming, not even Case himself.

1. Jeff Fisher
So here are the two starting quarterbacks in the NFC title game....

In that picture, both are on the roster of a Jeff Fisher-coached Rams squad. As it so happens, Fisher coached the quarterback of the three seed in the NFC, too, Jared Goff. Needless to say, all three of these quarterbacks, Goff, Foles, and Keenum, were at their professional worst on Fisher's watch. That's because Fisher is an absolute toilet fungus of an offensive head coach. In fact, the league should mandate that they dangle Fisher over the field this Sunday in a shark cage just so we can all be reminded how inept he was in coaching these two and practically every quarterback not named Steve McNair. We can have Vince Young lock the cage shut and turn the lever to raise it high above the field.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast