Perhaps the most impressive part of Case Keenum’s official Broncos’ debut on Sunday was not his three touchdowns to help erase his three interceptions.
It was the fact that he still led the Broncos in scoring touchdowns despite throwing those interceptions.
Basically, Keenum wasn’t afraid.
And that confidence to sling it again paid big dividends, most evident in the fourth quarter when the Broncos were down 24-20, and Keenum had already turned the ball over nearly half as many times in one game as he did all last season.
But No. 4 hit Courtland Sutton for 25 yards on a second-and-five play, followed by an eight-yard strike to Sanders and eventually a 33-yard laser to Jake Butt that drew a penalty and put the Broncos on Seattle’s four-yard line. Keenum then threaded a very tight needle to Demaryius Thomas in the end zone for the go-ahead score.
Our game-winning TD was a real toe-tapper.— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) September 10, 2018
“It’s playing the next play. The game is still in our hands,” Keenum said after the game. “You’ve got to forget about everything that you’ve done and play the next play.”
And that message helped the defense as much as the offense.
Speaking to Andrew Mason of First and 10 @ 10, Will Parks repeated a familiar offseason theme that it’s definitely a more complete Broncos team with an offense that can help win the game.
“Mase, it’s 2018; 2017 over with,” he joked. “We’ve got ‘4’ back there. ‘4’ is great guy. Even when he had the turnovers, he came back to the sidelines smiling, ‘We good, D, we good,’ and I was like, ‘ok, we good!’ That’s the kind of guy you want back there.”
Parks noted earlier in the conversation that a key message to the defense all offseason was “trust” - and that was carrying over between the offense and defense too.
“Trust has ‘us’ in it. We’ve got to trust in each other, believe in each other and everything else will play itself out,” Parks said. “If any guys are making mistakes on or off the field, then we have to pick them up because the guys we are going into the season with will be the guys we go to the Super Bowl with.”
Keenum was definitely handing out kudos to his new defensive teammates.
Following a first offensive drive that ended in a punt, the defense sacked Russell Wilson on the first play before sending the Seahawks’ offense to the bench two plays later.
But on the Broncos’ next series, Keenum threw an interception on the third play of the drive, setting up Wilson and his offense on the Broncos’ 15-yard line. The Seahawks scored, but Keenum and his playmakers bounced back with a seven-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a 29-yard touchdown from undrafted rookie sensation Phillip Lindsay.
The Broncos’ D-line then stuffed the Seahawks’ ground game, forcing a second three-and-out.
That rhythm became the game - the offense would score, giving the defense some breathing room to “pin its ears back” and play aggressive ball. That aggressive D was able to extract two interceptions (one on the last play of the game) and two fumble recoveries to go along with six sacks.
“I think defensively, getting the ball back three times was great,” Keenum noted. “The big stop when we needed it at the end, another stop that led to points. I think they did a great job today, they saved my butt. I appreciate those guys.”
But the offense did the defense a solid too. Staying on the field for extended drives - even ones that ultimately ended in punts - gave the defense some much needed rest. Time of possession by the Broncos’ offense was 35 minutes, compared to Seattle’s 25. That can make a big difference, especially in the thin Rocky Mountain air.
Parks reiterated his mutual trust for Keenum as the signal caller.
“That’s the kind of guy you want out there,” he said. “You don’t want a guy that’s going to mope and pout [after something happens.] He believes in us, and he trusts us.”
Coach Vance Joseph was obviously not happy about the picks but told Dave Logan on First and 10 @ 10 that he, too, was happy to see how Keenum bounced back - and trusted himself.
“I was really pleased how he came back after the turnover,” Joseph said. “After that first one he threw four or five passes and we’re in the end zone, so he did respond and he kept battling. And that was fun to see because adversity is going to happen, especially with the quarterback, but you want your team leader to bounce back and be resilient and fight through that adversity.”
Although Joseph would like his quarterback to be more mindful of the down and distance on first and second down - and “live to see another down” rather than trying to make a play - he liked the confidence in Keenum.
“Case is a great competitor,” Joseph said, “so when he makes those mistakes, he wants to rectify them and get them right for us.”