By Zack Kelberman
(247 SPORTS) – In summarizing Saturday’s season-ruining loss to the Cleveland Browns, Case Keenum gave us a peak behind the curtain of his psyche.
“It’s still kind of a blur. I’m still pretty emotional about it,” he said after the 17-16 defeat. “But that’s what I dream about, that’s what I want. I want the ball in my hands with a chance to go win the game. And to get that close, and to not, it pisses me off. I know my mom is going to be mad for using that word, but it hurts.”
The ball was in Keenum’s hands all evening, as the Denver Broncos’ quarterback attempted 48 passes, completing 31 for 257 yards, no passing touchdowns and two interceptions. He salvaged his effort with a gritty one-yard “rushing” score, but Keenum is a major culprit for Denver’s playoff pulse flat-lining. His second pick — an errant toss-up into heavy coverage — set up Cleveland’s go-ahead and eventual game-winning TD.
“First one, it was man coverage,” he explained. “Heck, when we’re in field goal range, I’ve got to be more careful with the ball. Trying to give them a chance and the kid made a heck of a play. Coming from the middle of the field, intercepting that one. I need to get that ball up and down a little bit sooner. The second was just a really poor read by me. We were feeling good, wanted to take a shot, and they did a good job disguising the coverage. They rolled to a different form of cover two, and I didn’t see the corner. It’s not an excuse, but it’s ultimately what lost us the football game because they went down and scored right after that.”
Keenum heeded head coach Vance Joseph’s call for increased air assailment; he took several chances in contested situations, including the end zone. But players play and coaches coach, and Keenum was powerless to defend against Joseph’s mind-numbing decision to kick a field goal on 4th and 1 late in the fourth quarter, trailing by four points.
It was a situation where the ball was taken away from Keenum and Co. Head coach Vance Joseph claimed he trusted Denver’s defense to force a punt, which they didn’t, rather than try to convert a measly three feet. The veteran gunslinger supported the call, even though it works in opposition to his supposed preference.
“I felt confident,” he said. “I wanted to convert third down, that’s what I wanted to do. But he felt like defense could get a stop and get the ball back, and they did. They got a stop, we got the ball back. So, I can’t complain because I had the ball in my hands with a chance to win the game. It’s all I can ask for.”
The Broncos had one more last-gasp drive, needing just a field goal to emerge victorious. Questionable play-calling forced them into another fourth-down at midfield with under a minute remaining, anticlimactically ending on a big Keenum sack from what he considers the most aggressive defense he’d faced all year.
“A lot of anger at myself,” Keenum said. “There were some plays I could make that didn’t and then some plays that I want back today, but yeah, a lot of anger.”