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Keenum TD Pass Gives Diggs A Chance, Sends Vikings to NFC Championship

MINNEAPOLIS –Case Keenum knew that all Minnesota's offense needed was a chance.

On third-and-10 and with 10 seconds remaining in the game, Keenum huddled up with his teammates and announced the play, which is called 7 Heaven. He dropped back near the Vikings 30 and launched the ball downfield to Stefon Diggs, who leapt up to make the catch at the Saints 33.

"[Case] said, 'I'm gonna give somebody a chance,' " Diggs said after the game. "And that somebody was me." 

Diggs landed just past Saints safety Marcus Williams, turned on a dime to stay in bounds, and sprinted to the end zone for a 29-24 win as time expired.

"It was pretty well-covered. It wasn't like a normal – I'll have to watch the film, too – but I saw a little bit of an opening, and threw it, and he jumped up," Keenum said.

Down by two points to New Orleans and with the game on the line, Keenum said the original plan was for the receiver to get out of bounds after the grab, leaving a few seconds for a Minnesota field goal attempt.

But things worked out differently.

"We had a couple guys on the sideline there, and we were all trying to get out of bounds if he caught it – and he happened to not get out of bounds," Keenum said with a laugh.

"We needed a big chunk," said Keenum. "We knew there was still a possibility. Still some hope."

Diggs' touchdown gave the Vikings a victory in the Divisional round matchup, and Minnesota will now advance to face Philadelphia in the NFC Championship next week.

Keenum, who made his first postseason start on Sunday, couldn't stop smiling after the game.

"I don't know what the percentage was, but just tried to give the guy a chance – and he made an awesome play," said Keenum. "I couldn't believe what was happening – it was awesome."

Moments like the one to cap off Sunday's game at U.S. Bank Stadium are ones that Keenum has dreamed about since he was a boy drawing up backyard plays in Abilene, Texas.

"At that point, you're just reacting. When you're that tired, it's that late, when you're just fighting and clawing, it's a reaction," Keenum said. "I remember being on the sideline, we were kind of on the sideline looking over some last-minute plays, and I was just like, 'Let's just go react and play. Let's just go play.'

"At that point, you're just a kid throwing a football to another big kid," Keenum added. "It just runs its course."

Kyle Rudolph also commented on Keenum's style and playmaking ability.

"He has that kind of, you know, recess, street-ball style back there," Rudolph said. "He extends plays with his legs and makes huge throws. In that situation there, that's just giving a guy a chance and Diggs making a huge play."

It wasn't the first big play by Keenum on the day.

The quarterback also found Adam Thielen for a 24-yard gain late in the game, and earlier on made an impressive throw to Jarius Wright for 27 yards. The play by Wright kept the Vikings moving on a drive that ended in a 49-yard field goal by Kai Forbath to give Minnesota a 20-14 lead.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was pleased overall with Keenum's performance, calling the pass to Wright "unbelievable."

Keenum finished the day 25-of-40 passing for 318 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His passer rating was 85.2.

The pick occurred in the third quarter and gave the Saints positive field position for a series that ended with a Michael Thomas touchdown. Keenum took responsibility for the error, calling the interception a "bonehead play," but remained confident in the following drives.

Zimmer appreciated that Keenum never panicked.

"Case is a pretty cool customer," Zimmer said. "It kind of tells you a little bit about this guy – the way he, you know, he was excited before the game like most of our guys were. But I think the way he handled himself today, you know, he's got a big chip on his shoulder. He's always trying to prove people wrong. I love that about him. He's a lot like our team."

Diggs wasn't surprised that Keenum came up with the big play when it counted.

After all, he's been doing it all season.

"It's Case being Case. Half the guys on our offense, nobody really wanted – late-round guys, guys who have a lot to prove," Diggs said. "I feel like Case has done that each and every week … People kind of count him out because he hasn't been here, because he hasn't played a playoff game – but now he has.

"To see him persevere and push through adversity, that's what our team represents," Diggs added.

Keenum said he "couldn't remember" a lot of what happened and that he was still trying to process the excitement of it all.

One thing he did emphasize, however, was the trust that he has in his teammates and that he knew they could make something happen when they needed to. Keenum recalled a moment before the game when a number of players were exchanging high-fives and getting pumped up.

"[Everybody's] just kind of getting locked in, and I remember thinking, 'This is a special group of guys. This is such a special group of guys,' " Keenum said. "I've never been around a group like this before. And that's not even counting what kind of football players they are – it's the type of guys they are."

As Diggs celebrated in the end zone, fireworks went off, and a crowd of 66,612 Vikings fans rained down deafening applause, Keenum's emotions took over.

"I couldn't believe it. I was just looking for people to hug," Keenum quipped. "I knew I wasn't going to get all the way to 'Diggsy'. But linemen, anybody. Anybody that was close enough. Just yelling and screaming at each other. It was fun; it was a lot of fun."

In a recent interview with Vikings.com, Keenum stressed that he likes to have the ball in his hands when the game is on the line.

He got that chance Sunday, and thus far, it tops anything he's experienced in his football career.

"So far [it's the best]. We've got a few big games ahead," Keenum said with a smile. "Definitely so far. It was a special end to a special game, that's for sure."

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