EAGAN, Minn. — The frequency of opportunities for Vikings receivers decreased, but efficiency increased in 2019.
The 2019 Vikings attempted 140 fewer passes than the previous season when Minnesota tied a franchise record with 606.
The reduction resulted from a commitment to running the ball more often in a new offensive system and the first injury that caused Adam Thielen to miss a game for the first time.
Thielen was sidelined for all of six games, but he also played minimally at Detroit when a hamstring injury occurred in Week 7 and even less two weeks later at Kansas City.
Stefon Diggs and others stepped up during Thielen's absence. Receivers helped Kirk Cousins record a career-best passer rating of 107.4, which is the second-highest by a Vikings quarterback in a season.
View the best photos from Vikings team photographers of the wide receivers during the 2019 season.
Diggs emerged as a lethal deep threat on play-action passes that were built off the success of the run game. He was "The Man in Motion," showcasing superior hand-eye coordination and body control on multiple amazing grabs.
Thielen started the season strongly with 26 catches, 366 yards and five touchdowns in Minnesota's first six games of the season.
After Thielen was sidelined, Minnesota turned to rookie Bisi Johnson, a seventh-round selection in April who wound up ranking second among the position group with 31 receptions. Johnson was able to play beyond his experience, quickly learning multiple receiver positions.
Laquon Treadwell, a 2016 first-round pick, was initially released during roster reductions and resigned in September.
Injuries also impacted Josh Doctson, a 2016 first-round classmate of Treadwell. The Vikings claimed Doctson after his release by Washington, but he was not targeted in one game. Chad Beebe's promising offseason screeched to a stop in September.
Although the Vikings offense was able to withstand losing Thielen for such a long time thanks to contributions of other receivers, tight ends and running backs, Minnesota seemed to be at its very best with Diggs and Thielen at full-strength.
The presence of both forces defenses to make tough decisions and can benefit the run game as well.
129.9 and 125.8 — respective passer ratings generated by Thielen and Diggs on deep passes (20-plus air yards) in 2019, which ranked fifth and ninth in the NFL; Minnesota was one of two teams with two players in the top nine. Kansas City's Travis Kelce led the NFL with a generated rating of 138.6, and Tyreek Hill's 130.8 ranked fourth.
Thielen laid out and hauled in a 43-yard reception that moved the ball to the New Orleans 2-yard line and set up a game-winning touchdown pass in overtime of the Vikings Wild Card upset over the Saints. Thielen's final catch of the game was his seventh of the day moved his yardage total to 129, the seventh-most by a Viking in a playoff game.
Regular season: 15 games (15 starts); 63 receptions for 1,130 yards (17.9 yards per catch) and 6 touchdowns
Second consecutive season with 1,000-plus yards
Led NFL with 624 yards on deep passes (20-plus air yards)
Catch rate: 67.0 percent (94 targets) | Receptions of 20-plus yards: 20
Playoffs: 2 games (2 starts); 4 catches for 76 yards (19.0 yards per catch), 1 touchdown
Regular season: 10 games (10 starts); 30 receptions for 418 yards (13.9 yards per catch) and 6 touchdowns
Catch rate: 62.5 percent (48 targets) | Receptions of 20-plus yards: 8
Playoffs: 2 games (1 start); 12 receptions for 179 yards (14.9 yards per catch)
Regular season: 16 games (6 starts); 31 receptions for 294 yards (9.5 yards per catch) and 3 touchdowns
Catch rate: 68.9 percent (45 targets) | Receptions of 20-plus yards: 1
Playoffs: 2 games; 2 catches for 17 yards (8.5 yards per catch)
Regular season: 13 games (1 start); nine receptions for 184 yards (20.4 yards per catch) and 1 touchdown
Catch rate: 56.3 percent (16 targets) | Receptions of 20-plus yards: 3
Playoffs: 1 game, 0 targets
Regular season: 3 games; 2 receptions for 70 yards (35.0 yards per catch)
Catch rate: 100 percent (2 targets) | Receptions of 20-plus yards: 1
Placed on injured reserve after Week 3
Regular season: 5 games (1 start); 2 receptions for 46 yards (23.0 yards per catch)
Catch rate: 50 percent (4 targets) | Receptions of 20-plus yards: 1
Playoffs: 1 game; 1 target
2 Highest highs
1. Diggs recorded three impressive touchdowns, including a pair of more than 50 yards, to torch the Eagles secondary. The fifth-year pro became the first Vikings receiver to post three touchdown catches in a game since 2005 and finished with a season-high 167 yards on seven receptions in helping Minnesota defeat Philadelphia 38-20.
2. Thielen caught seven passes on eight targets for a season-best 130 yards and two scores (15 and 9 yards) in a 28-10 win at New York. The Vikings and Giants entered the game with 2-2 records after the first quarter of the season, but Minnesota was able to build momentum for four consecutive victories.
2 Lowest lows
1. The Vikings opted to keep four receivers during final roster reductions (Diggs, Thielen, Johnson and Beebe) before adding Doctson on Sept. 3 after his release from Washington. Doctson suffered an injury in practice on Sept. 12 and was placed on Injured Reserve. Beebe then landed on Injured Reserve on Sept. 24. Doctson returned but played just seven snaps against Denver in Week 11. Beebe's season was limited to 43 snaps.
2. Good news: Thielen made an incredible catch on a 25-yard touchdown at Detroit for an early lead. Bad news: He hit the wall of a seating area that was near the back of the end zone at Ford Field, and the all-out effort resulted in a hamstring injury that kept Thielen sidelined for most of the second half of 2019.
"I think we're right there. I think it just comes down to executing. It's great to talk about it, and it's great to say, 'We've just gotta do this better or do that better,' but now we've gotta go do it. We're to the point now where we know we can be contenders, but we've gotta go prove it. We have to go prove it every single week, and we have to go back to the drawing board. The first thing, like I say every week, the first thing I'm going to do is go look myself in the mirror and draw something up to make sure that I'm getting better individually. If everybody can do that, I think the sky's the limit. But again, you've got to go do it. You've got to go execute week-in and week-out, and play-in and play-out."
— Thielen on the Vikings improving on 2018 but not reaching the big goal
"You can take away that we lost and have a lot to learn from. It was a long year, hard-fought battles all year. … I'm very proud of the guys."
— Diggs after the Vikings season ended at San Francisco