Five months ago, few predicted a confrontation between the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles NFC Championship Game. No one would have guessed the quarterbacks who would lead those teams one step closer to the Super Bowl.
Case Keenum and Nick Foles opened the season as backup quarterbacks, sporting reputations as officials who probably would not make the postseason. Sunday's tilt will mark the first time since at least 1970 that two quarterbacks are in the conference championship after none of the quarterbacks started in Week 1, by NFL Research.
On Wednesday, Keenum had the opportunity to test the unlikely nature of the duel for Sunday's NFC championship.
"I know this is what you all predicted in the past, it was a Foles versus Keenum NFC championship, so, good job for all of you who predicted that," Keenum said ironically.
Keenum was forced into the lineup in week 2 after Sam Bradford injured his knee. The 29-year-old remained in full-time work from Week 5 with a stellar ability to make plays and bravery on the field. Foles took over after MVP candidate Carson Wentz broke his anterior cruciate ligament in week 14, doing enough to push the NFC East winners to the championship game.
The unlikely course for both Keenum and Foles dates back to the fact that both quarterbacks were on the same roster in 2015 with the St. Louis Rams under Jeff Fisher. Foles started that season before being replaced by Keenum. The Rams looked one of the worst offenses in the NFL during the two quarterback periods.
The 2017 season became a breakout season for Keenum, who was constantly questioned about his starting status, sometimes by his own coach, despite the long series of strong play. In his last nine starts (eight wins) Keenum has thrown 16 touchdowns to just five interceptions, with a passer rating of more than 100 on six of those leanings.
Keenum is powered by the best one-two receiver hit in the NFL in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and a solid running attack. On Wednesday the field marshal was asked if he feels like a point guard on the football field.
"I try to get the ball out of my hands and take it to the fast guys," he said. "Whether it's delivering it, throwing it, screens, whatever it is we have to do, take it to the guys who can do something special with it, and do it at the right time, with the right placement and being smart with I think. If that's what a point guard does, then, yes, that's what I'll do. "
Keenum got the ball to Diggs for a miraculous victory on Sunday and set up an unlikely quarterback pairing with the winner playing for a Lombardi Trophy. Now the Vikings need the quarterback to do it again, against a good Eagles defense, to win a Super Bowl game at home.