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You get the feeling that Case Keenum should practice telling the story of the “Minneapolis Miracle.” He’s going to be telling it for the rest of his life.
The play is one of the greatest in NFL history, and it will live on forever. No matter how many times you’ve seen Stefon Diggs emerge past the New Orleans Saints’ secondary and score to win a crazy divisional round playoff game, it’s unfathomable. It was pretty amazing to Keenum, who signed with the Denver Broncos this offseason, as well.
Brian Madden of CBS4 in Denver got video of Keenum going to the white board and breaking down the play for some Broncos fans at an event, and the stories behind the play give the “Minneapolis Miracle” even more life (check out the full video on CBS4’s site here, it’s well worth the time). For one, Diggs wasn’t the receiver Keenum was initially looking for on the play. Also, Keenum couldn’t even see Diggs when he threw it.
Like the stories about the “Immaculate Reception” or “The Catch,” the backstories behind Diggs’ touchdown will grow into legend. Keenum shared his tales from that play, and it was amazing.
The name of the play itself, which started at the Vikings’ 39-yard line with 10 seconds to go and no Minnesota timeouts remaining, was “Gun Buffalo Right Key Left 7 Heaven.” Most fans know this already, but quarterbacks have a challenge just calling plays in the huddle. An NFL playbook is not simple.
Keenum explained it. “Gun” is shotgun, of course. Keenum explained that “Buffalo Right” is the formation — the receivers know that it’s a bunch set because it starts with the “B”, and the “F” in Buffalo means the “F” receiver is at the front of the three-man bunch. Got that?
“Key Left” is the protection, meaning it’s a six-man protection with the five linemen and the running back focusing the protection to the left. “7 Heaven” signaled a “7” route (or corner route) by Adam Thielen on the left side, then on the other side Diggs ran a higher angle corner route … which was “7 Heaven.”
“I remember calling the play and being like, ‘Guys, I’m going to give one of y’all a chance. I don’t know what’s going to happen,'” Keenum said.
Diggs wasn’t Keenum’s first, second or third look
Much like “The Catch,” where Joe Montana improvised on his famous touchdown pass to Dwight Clark, Keenum’s first option was not Diggs. It was Thielen.
“I really wanted to throw to him, but he was covered up,” Keenum said, via CBS4’s video.
On the other side, Kyle Rudolph ran a quick out to the sideline, Jarius Wright (the “F” receiver) ran an intermediate out route and Diggs ran his deep corner route.
Keenum said he looked at Thielen first and he was covered. He looked at Wright, but he was covered too. He looked at Rudolph. Then he finally settled on Diggs.
Diggs adjusted his route and flattened it out a bit, Keenum said. And if the moment itself wasn’t difficult enough, Keenum lost sight of his receiver. He just had to throw where he thought Diggs would be.
“I just threw it toward the sideline,” Keenum said. “I lost vision of him a little bit, behind my right guard. I didn’t really see. I knew the ball came out of my hand really, really well … I knew it was right where I wanted to put it. But I couldn’t see where Stefon was.”
As he explained the play to the fans in Denver, Keenum went behind the white board and put his hands up to illustrate what he saw: Just Diggs’ gloved hands.
“He had these white gloves,” Keenum said. “Kind of coming out of nowhere.”
Keenum wanted Diggs to get out of bounds
The completion was just one part of the play. Diggs still had to either get out of bounds, to allow the Vikings another play and possibly a field-goal attempt, or somehow get to the end zone.
“It was nuts,” Keenum said of the crowd. “It was the loudest I’ve heard.
“Everybody was yelling I think the same thing I was, and that’s ‘Get out of bounds!'”
Keenum said he didn’t see Saints rookie safety Marcus Williams whiffing on a tackle. Williams’ miss is as big a part of the play’s legend as Keenum’s throw or Diggs’ run.
“I don’t see any of that happen,” Keenum said. “All of a sudden I see Stefon fall and put his hand down, and I’m like ‘No! Get out of bounds!’ And he just starts running toward the end zone, and he never gets tackled.”
The miracle wasn’t the greatest moment of Keenum’s life
It wasn’t a perfect ending. The Vikings lost big the next week in the NFC championship game at Philadelphia. But Keenum shared one more story from that game.
Keenum said Fox’s Chris Myers grabbed him for a postgame interview and asked him if it was the best moment of his life.
“It just clicked in my head, and I think God put something in my head,” Keenum said. “I’m a strong believer and I think my faith is a big part of who I am. I think God put something in my heart at that moment, and I said, ‘No this is the third-best moment of my life. Giving my life to Christ was No. 1. Marrying my wife was second. This is third.”
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