Wide receiving cores have been highlighted and glamorized in recent memory throughout the NFL. The position itself has become extremely popular and teams like the Falcons, the Giants and the Steelers have orchestrated their identity around their core of pass-catchers. One team that wasn’t well known for their receiving core was the Minnesota Vikings. Mike Zimmer’s squad is associated with their punishing defense that features Pro Bowlers like linebacker Anthony Barr, defensive end Everson Griffen and cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Although the defense has been a huge reason for their success (7-2 overall record), wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen have quietly become one of the NFL’s best receiving duos within an injury-riddled offense.
The season started with a splash from the two as they hauled in a combined 250 receiving yards and two touchdowns (both scored by Diggs) against the New Orleans Saints. Even though they easily beat New Orleans, the win came at a price when starting quarterback Sam Bradford was diagnosed with a knee injury after the game. Since that first game on Sept. 11, Bradford has yet to play in a full game. With Teddy Bridgewater yet to be activated because of a horrific leg injury that happened last preseason, it was up to Case Keenum to rally the troops and bring some justice to Thielen and Diggs.
Since taking over, Keenum has thrown 11 touchdowns and five interceptions and has also built chemistry with Thielen in particular. The two have connected for 636 yards and two touchdowns through eight games, even with their limited practice time together. Thielen was locked in last Sunday as he recorded 12 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown with All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman draped all over him. He was seemingly open all game, showing off his polished route running.
Since being primarily used on special teams in 2015, Thielen has climbed his way up the depth chart to become the team’s starting outside receiver. However, fellow teammate Diggs followed a different journey to his success this season. After being drafted in the fifth round in the 2015 draft, Diggs emerged as Bridgewater’s number one target. Since then, he’s been the team’s No. 1 receiver and has really hit his stride this season. Early in the first quarter, Keenum connected with Diggs for a 51-yard gain as Norman was left trailing again. He also logged in a touchdown from three yards out, finishing the day with four catches for 78 yards.
The unlikely duo has taken the league by storm and will face a tough task at home against the 7-2 Los Angeles Rams, whose defense has improved vastly since last season under new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.