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Diggs, Thielen Combine for Explosive Plays for Vikings Against Bucs

Posted Sep 24, 2017

MINNEAPOLIS – The Vikings receivers entered Sunday’s game with plenty of faith in Case Keenum, and the reciprocated confidence showed on the field.

Keenum started his second consecutive game in Purple in place of the injured Sam Bradford, and he didn’t shy away from going for the big plays. After two quick handoffs to Dalvin Cook to start the game, Keenum stepped back and let it fly.

He connected deep with Adam Thielen down the left sideline, who pulled in the 45-yard pass one-handed, his yellow glove flashing. Four plays later, Cook leapt over a pile for Minnesota’s first touchdown of the day and an early 7-0 lead over Tampa Bay.

“It’s funny because we actually talked about that a bunch this week,” Thielen said after the game. “Like, ‘Hey, we have to start fast because that’s how we can gain some confidence; the o-line will gain confidence in us and Case.’ ”

Keenum said the play helped him calm down and settle into the game early on.

“To be able to do that and get points on the board early, the first drive right out of the gates, I think that helps everybody,” Keenum said.

Added Thielen: “Then from there, it’s just about playing football. So obviously that was huge to connect right away and keep it going from there.”

Thielen finished the game with 98 yards on just five catches. He was second on the team behind Stefon Diggs, who recorded eight catches for 173 yards.

Diggs also said the offense was intentional about an explosive start.

“We came out swinging,” Diggs said. “And when your quarterback’s bringing that energy, you just try to match him.”

The third-year receiver scored two of Minnesota’s four touchdowns on the day.

The first came just before halftime. On first-and-10 from the Bucs 17, Keenum threw to the right side of the end zone and found Diggs, who jumped up to make the catch over cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.

After halftime and three minutes into the third quarter, the Vikings looked to convert a third-and-3. The Keenum-Diggs duo gave them a first down and more.

Keenum dropped back to his own 30 and fired to Diggs, who made the catch near the Bucs 42-yard line. From there, he twisted away from the defender and bolted down the sideline before turning back toward the middle of the field and into the end zone.

“I got some great protection, got a great ball, just tried to make a play,” Diggs said.

“He’s a special dude,” Keenum said of Diggs following the game.

Diggs and Thielen led the way but weren’t the only Vikings to make an impact in the receiving game Sunday.

Minnesota’s second touchdown was scored by Jarius Wright.

On first-and-goal from the 2, Keenum rolled right and located Wright, who made the catch and was able to dive across the pylon.

“It always feels good to be able to get into the end zone. But for me, just being able to help the team win is the most important thing,” said Wright, who had two catches for nine yards. “We got a good win today. The offense showed up and put on a great performance, and I’m just happy I got a chance to be a part of it.”

Wright added that there never was a lack of confidence in Keenum by his receivers.

“He wouldn’t be here if he couldn’t get the job done,” Wright said. “As receivers, we say that we don’t care who the quarterback is. We just have to go out and make plays. We stood by that, and Case did a great job today just getting the ball out to us, and we made plays.”

Keenum mentioned twice during his postgame presser that he was “having fun” during the game on his way to a career-best 369 yards on 25-of-33 passing. He finished with a passer rating of 142.1. The quarterback said he received “great feedback” from his teammates during the week and was happy with the way Minnesota’s offense executed plays that had been talked about leading up to game day.

According to Thielen, the two-way trust made all the difference.

“He gave us opportunities to make plays, and that’s all you can ask for as a receiver,” Thielen said. “When the ball is in the air, you have to come down with it. He’s trusting us to get open, and he’s just throwing it before we’re even open. It’s awesome. He’s trusting us to go and make a play, and we were able to do that.”