Detroit – Adam Thielen missed the mark by just 33 yards last season. Now the hometown hero is officially the Vikings’ first 1,000-yard receiver in eight years. So, how does it feel?
“Honestly, it just feels good to win,” Thielen said after Thursday’s 30-23 win in Detroit.
That sounds about right. Thielen has downplayed the significance of the 1,000-yard mark nearly every step of his incredible journey from undrafted Division II standout to NFL star. He has five more games to build on a season that could make him just the second Division II undrafted player to record 1,200 receiving yards or 90 catches in the modern era. The first was former Broncos receiver Rod Smith.
What kind of drought has Thielen ended? A stubborn one.
In the seven seasons since Sidney Rice eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards for the Vikings, Minnesota has drafted eight receivers (two first-rounders in Cordarrelle Patterson and Laquon Treadwell) and spent millions in guaranteed money on high-profile free agents from Greg Jennings to Mike Wallace.
All it took was a Maverick from Minnesota State Mankato.
“Just remarkable,” receiver Stefon Diggs said. “I’ve watched the guy come up each and every day since I’ve been here. That’s the guy I have the most respect for. That’s my brother.”
Thielen now has 70 catches for 1,005 yards and three touchdowns in 11 games this season.
Three times quarterback Case Keenum looked his way on Thursday when facing a tough third down. All three times, Keenum and Thielen moved the chains. Thielen entered the comma club on his final catch: a 16-yarder that moved the Vikings into Lions territory in the fourth quarter.
Thielen said Keenum wasn’t singling him out as the go-to option on third down. It’s just the way it happened.
“We don’t talk about it, but any play that is called I want to beat the guy across from me,” Thielen said. “As a competitor, as an athlete, you want the ball to come to you.”
Thielen, the only NFL player this season to record at least five grabs in every game, finished with eight catches for 89 yards. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer also prefers Thielen’s qualities over his numbers, raving about a recent encounter the two had at practice.
“The other day we were practicing. I put my hands up like I was going to fight him,” Zimmer recalled. “He said, ‘Coach, you don’t want to fight me, I won’t quit.’ I said, ‘You think I will?’ He said no, but that’s the kind of guy he is. He’s going to figure out a way.”