DENVER -- When the Denver Broncos surveyed the free-agency landscape this offseason in search of a quarterback, they wanted a player who could dig himself, and the team, out of trouble.
In his first regular-season start with the Broncos, new quarterback Case Keenum did just that.
"He just kept playing," said Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. "He kept going out there and moving the offense and we got the win, and ... I expect him to play way better."
In a 27-24 win over the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, Keenum finished a robust 25-of-39 passing for 329 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. His two touchdown passes and a 234-yard performance in the first half had the team's faithful ready to marry Keenum after the first date.
But Keenum and the Broncos constructed some tough times Sunday as well. The Broncos' first possession after a summer of optimism included a drop by wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, a holding penalty and a near interception.
Keenum's sixth pass attempt of the game was intercepted -- by Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, no less, who had been with the team all of five days after ending his offseason holdout. The Seahawks turned that interception into a touchdown one play later, just like they turned Keenum's second interception into a touchdown in the third quarter, tying the game at 17.
"Couple of bad reads, just trying to make the big play when we don't have to," Keenum said. "… I realize that, it's something I'm going to fix, something I'll be better at."
Broncos general manager John Elway has said one of the biggest reasons he picked Keenum to lead the team was because Keenum had "been through some things, those tough times in games when you have to compete to get out of it because as a quarterback things aren't always going to go your way."
Before he passed for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns while leading the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship Game last season, Keenum had been waived three times in his career and had been benched by two different teams. "He's been through some stuff, and that hardens you as a player if you come out on the other side," is how coach Vance Joseph has put it.
Far too often during 2017's cave-in, opposing offenses turned one of the Broncos' 22 interceptions into a touchdown. And when the Seahawks took a 24-20 lead with 14:46 remaining, with two touchdowns built on Keenum's mistakes, the Broncos' early-season hopes looked to be ground into dust.
"We're not going to get down, that's Case, that's some of us other players as leaders on this team," Thomas said. "Forget those things and play on. That's going to be our personality, it has to be. We're not going to carry all that negative stuff around with us. A new season."
So with the game on the line Sunday, Keenum went about the business of cleaning up the mess he helped to make. The Broncos put together a seven-play drive for a touchdown -- Keenum was 4-for-4 on the drive, including a 4-yard scoring pass to Thomas. It gave the Broncos a 27-24 lead with 11:11 left in the game.
"Just play the next play, the game is still in our hands," Keenum said of the drive. "Obviously they went down and scored a touchdown, we've got to go make a play, you've got to forget everything that you've done and play the next play … it was a big-time drive."
With that lead, something the Broncos played with only 26 percent of the time during last year's 5-11 finish, Von Miller could be Von Miller. His third sack on the day shut down the Seahawks and the Broncos' offense then kept itself out of trouble the rest of the way.
It was a solid start for the quarterback who has given the Broncos a new outlook with the first win of the new season.
"It's not exactly how you'd draw it up," Keenum said. "But I'm really excited how good this football team can be, [if] we take care of the ball, I take care of the ball -- those [interceptions] are all on me -- we're going to be really hard to beat."