DETROIT — The special connection between Case Keenum and Adam Thielen was on full display on Thanksgiving Day.
It was evident in crucial situations such a key moments of a game that tightened, and in the grand scheme of things as Thielen surpassed a personal milestone.
The quarterback found his most-frequent target eight times for 89 yards in a 30-23 win over the Lions, helping Thielen surpass the 1,000-yard mark on the season. It was the first time a Vikings player had done so since 2009.
Minnesota led by as many as 17 late in the first half and early in the second, but the Lions pulled within four points at 27-23 with 14:16 remaining. Keenum found Thielen on the ensuing drive for three consecutive completions (gains of 6, 10 and 16) to re-establish some rhythm for the offense after a rough patch.
Thielen, who now has 70 catches for 1,005 yards and three scores this season, downplayed the achievement and said he was happier the Vikings were able to salvage a season split with Detroit.
"All it does is feel good to win. To be on the field with these guys, it's a fun group to play with and there's nothing better than coming out of here with a win," Thielen said. "It's a tough place to win in, and they're a tough team to beat."
"I'm not even thinking about it, all I'm thinking about is this win," Thielen later added. "I really couldn't care less about that. Just getting a win in this place feels really good."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said Thielen's unrelenting attitude has helped make him one of the game's top receivers.
"I mean, I think it's great that he's got 1,000 yards. But Adam is a great competitor," Zimmer said. "He figures out a way. You know I said on the radio just a minute ago, the other day we were at practice, and I put my hands up like I was going to fight him, and he says, 'Coach, you don't want to fight me. I won't quit.' And I said, 'Do you think I will?' And he said, 'No.'
"But that's the kind of guy he is. He's going to figure out a way, he's going to find a way, and he's a good football player," Zimmer added. "Tough, competitive, does dirty work. I've said that so many times."
Added Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs: "That's remarkable. I've watched the guy come up each and every day since I've been here. That's been one guy that I've had the utmost respect for. I love him. That's my brother. That's more than just my teammate. And to see him hit that 1,000-yard mark is just like, it's like your brother graduating from college or something like that. I don't know, man, I'm just trying to compare it to something. But it feels good."
Keenum completed 21 of 30 passes for 282 yards and a pair of scores to Kyle Rudolph.
"I've got a lot of trust in my guys out there catching the football," Keenum said. "Rudy, Adam, Diggs, it's across the board. Jarius made some big plays today. I love those guys, I trust those guys, and when you have that trust, it's good."
But with the Vikings holding a four-point lead early in the fourth quarter, Keenum looked Thielen's way often in crucial situations.
Thielen caught a 6-yard pass to bring up third-and-4 before moving the chains with a 10-yard grab. He then hauled in a 16-yard pass that saw him eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career.
Although Minnesota eventually had to punt, the drive helped kill precious time off the clock in an eventual win.
Thielen said he and Keenum certainly didn't preplan connecting on three plays in a row.
"We don't talk about it, just any play that's called I want to beat the guy across from me," Thielen said. "As a competitor and as an athlete, you want the ball to come to you so you try to win your route as best as you can and hope the ball comes your way."
Keenum is now 7-2 as the Vikings starter and helped Minnesota to an eighth win when he came in at halftime of a Week 5 victory in Chicago.
The quarterback might have looked Thielen's way at times as the Vikings improved to 9-2, but there is no question he impressed everyone in Minnesota's locker room yet again.
"He is a man's man and he loves to play the game," Thielen said. "He doesn't care who takes the credit, he just wants to go out there and play football.
"That's something we have really good going on here is that we have a lot of guys in this locker room that love to play football, and it shows on the field," Thielen added.
Said Zimmer: "Case is playing outstanding. He's a great competitor, studies his rear end off, works extremely hard. And today, he seemed like he was more settled. There's times when he gets a little bit excitable, he kind of – like I've said – goes off the reservation a little bit, but today even throughout the course of the game, he seemed like he was in a pretty good mindset."