PHILADELPHIA – When receiver Adam Thielen seemingly had done everything to secure the Vikings’ 23-21 victory against the Eagles on Sunday, the ball bounced off his chest.
Thielen ultimately fell onto “one of the nastiest things I’ve ever seen,” he said, referring to Eagles kicker Jake Elliott’s onside knuckleball that bounced and twisted in the air. Thielen recovered, quarterback Kirk Cousins took a knee and the remaining seconds ticked away in a Vikings win propped up by Thielen’s latest 100-yard game.
Only after he survived the ungodly NFL dogpile of desperate Eagles.
“It was as fun as you could imagine,” Thielen said. “There was a lot of pinching going on. A lot of body weight on me, I was just trying to hold on for dear life.”
Before sealing the result, Thielen made history. He caught seven passes for 116 yards and a score to become the first receiver in the Super Bowl era with at least 100 receiving yards in five consecutive games to open a season.
The Vikings receiver isn’t really into all that history making, he says. His 589 receiving yards through five games also set the Vikings franchise record, surpassing Randy Moss’ 515 yards in 2003.
“Not really thinking about it, obviously,” Thielen said. “Just worried about our record and am on to the next game now. I don’t even know who we play.”
The next game would be the Cardinals on Sunday, when Thielen could become the second receiver ever with 100 receiving yards in six consecutive games to begin a season. The record was established before the first Super Bowl by the Houston Oilers’ Charley Hennigan and his seven 100-yard games to open the 1961 AFL season.
Not bad for the former Minnesota State Mankato star who once needed a rookie minicamp tryout just to make the Vikings’ offseason roster in 2013.
“I think his deal is all heart,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “Number one, he’s got the biggest heart there is. Number two, he’s always talking about how he could get better.”
He’s talking about how he can get better, even after a 68-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter that helped set up a Dan Bailey field goal.
“He says, ‘Man, I’m faster than that. I should’ve scored on that,’ ” Zimmer recalled.
Cousins and Thielen credit each other for a quick-bonding rapport that has developed into one of the NFL’s best. No receiver has caught Cousins’ eye more than Thielen, who leads the Vikings with 66 targets in five games.
Cousins said that’s a product of “where my reads take me,” which is football talk for “Thielen keeps getting open.” But there were plenty of times he helped his quarterback get out of trouble. Cousins found Thielen as an escape valve while under pressure against the Eagles, moving the chains at critical times.
And when the Vikings needed the victory sealed with an onside kick recovery, Thielen was there.
“I told him, ‘Catch it the first time,’ ” Zimmer said.