DENVER • The two good ol’ guys from Texas, in essence and intrinsically, crossed paths for the first time of the afternoon as one was leaving the interview room and the other entered.
Case Keenum and Von Miller had joined and won together, although apart on the field, for the first time in their careers Sunday. The monster rushing linebacker was born in DeSoto (outside Dallas), Texas, in 1989. A gritty quarterback-to-be was born a year earlier in Brownwood (near Abilene), Texas — the two towns are separated by 180 miles of hard road.
Miller was dressed somewhat as a Texan — cowboy hat and boots, a powder blue work shirt and, uh, faded, fashionable pink blue jeans. He should have been riding a mechanical bull.
Keenum was wearing a checked short-sleeved shirt, dress pants and casual shoes – and looked like he ought to be carrying a Power Ranger lunch box and an orange backpack.
The two shared a handshake, a hug and happy-happy congratulations and again went their own ways.
Oddly enough, they had paid almost no attention to each other during the Broncos’ grand-opening victory over the Seahawks.
On what he thought of Miller’s most dominant performance since he was The Vonster and MVP of Super Bowl 50, Keenum admitted he missed it. “I’m more trying to stay focused looking at the pictures (of the opposing defense), getting ready for my next series,” Case said, then added a however. “It’s hard not to notice when the crowd is going crazy and Von is out there crawling or whatever his sack dance is (laughs). That’s impressive to watch. I’m glad I’m on the sideline when he’s on the field. That’s for sure.”
Von was too busy to keep up with Keenum when the Broncos’ offense was out there because he was sucking air from an oxygen mask, which has been customary for every game. He has suffered from asthma since he was a kid and also is allergic to grass, which he acknowledged publicly in 2016.
Odd job choice for Miller, but he is one of the greatest linebackers to play professional football.
Miller said earlier in the week he hates to play against Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who cornerback Chris Harris Jr. told me after the game “seems to run around for two minutes and 20 yards on a lot of plays.” But, in truth, Von, who could be a Western movie star when he’s finished with football, only confronted Wilson and the northwesterners once before – four years ago this month. The Seahawks won, and the young Miller had three tackles and one sack.
Miller missed the Super Bowl mosh-up because of a torn ACL.
But, on Sunday, the Broncos got the best from Von, and he got the best of the Seahawks. He finished with a career-tying high three sacks and literally ripped the ball out of the hands of Seattle’s Chris Carson.
“I had ol’e’ed outside,’’ Von said, referring to a term for an eager bullfighter, “and technically, that’s not a good move (laughs). You want to be stout and shock and scare . . . so I knew I need to get back down to be able to make the tackle. And the running back, he was running, and I just saw the ball and grabbed it.”
After causing and grabbing the fresh-air fumble, and with 8:31 left in the third quarter, Von responded to the crowd on the east side of Mile High Stadium, ripped away the mask, stood on the bench, waved did a Hulk impression.
That act did catch Keenum’s eyes.
From atop the stadium, one can view the “Mind Eraser” roller coaster across I-25 at Elitch Gardens amusement park. Keenum appeared to be on that kind of ride with three touchdowns and three interceptions – and he did wind up with his first fourth-quarter, game-winning drive with the Broncos. He closed out with a four-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas, who pulled off a tight-roped Ringling Bros. catch just inbounds with 11 minutes to go, and Von and the defense held off the Seahawks.
“I still don’t like playing against Russell,’’ Von said. “We wanted to keep him in the pocket. We wanted to let him (try to) beat us with his arm, which he is capable of doing, But we really picked that position, and the strategy worked.”
With his three sacks, Miller has a combined regular season-postseason total of 90, and is in the top 50 all-time sack leaders. “”It’s a true blessing.’’
He is a blessing. Keenum could become one for the Broncos.
And Seattle ultimately learned not to mess with two Texans/Coloradans.