EAGAN, Minn. – For the first time in team history, the Vikings are preparing to defend an offense featuring wide receiver Adam Thielen.
The Athletic's Joe Person featured Thielen in a story about what the Minnesota legend has brought to Carolina, both on and off the field.
On Thielen, Person wrote:
Fresh off his best game as a Carolina Panther, Adam Thielen is rolling right into one he admits feels a "little bit weird."
That will happen when someone grows up in Minnesota, plays college football there, spends nine seasons with the Minnesota Vikings — then signs with a team in the Carolinas. Some habits are hard to break.
So when Thielen was asked about facing his longtime team Sunday at Bank of America Stadium, he had to catch himself with his use of first-person pronouns.
"It's already been a little bit weird starting the game plan, talking about the defense and then seeing them on tape," Thielen said Wednesday. "I've never game planned for our defense — or the Vikings' defense, I should say."
Excuse Thielen for the slip-up. More than just playing for the Vikings, the veteran wide receiver became something of a legend in his native state for his leadership, philanthropy and his cool Cinderella story — call it the Undrafted Free Agent That Could.
Last week versus the Seahawks, Thielen had a game Vikings fans have seen before. His 11 catches led all Week 3 pass catchers. Thielen's 145 yards were fourth-most in his 10-year career.
He also helped pull the Panthers downfield passing attack off the endangered list with three catches of 20 yards or longer.
Not bad for an old guy.
"I don't want to put too much on one game because I've been there before, right?" Thielen said. "You have a good game, feel confident and then this game will humble you quickly."
While Thielen may not be as fast as he was after joining the Vikings as an undrafted free agent from Minnesota State, he's made up for it by being a wizard with his route running.
"Once we got to camp, he was just so efficient with all his breaks in and out, making your feet stop (while) knowing what he's looking at. So it made you play a little bit faster than what you wanted to," safety Sam Franklin said. "He finds good ways to get open. He understands the game in and out. So, it wasn't so much that he was losing a step. It was more so he's just beating you with efficiency."
While Thielen ranks in the middle of the pack with an average separation of 2.9 yards, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, he's in the top 10 in the NFC in receptions (20) and receiving yards (211).
He's tied for the league's 15th-best catch percentage at 80.0.
"I don't see him dropping too many passes. Even when you're on his back, he's still catching it with grown-man catches," Franklin said. "So you've gotta play him through the whole down and hope the quarterback doesn't throw it his way."
Click here to read all of Person's story on Thielen.
Pro Football Focus lists NFC North Observations
Pro Football Focus released its 32 observations for each NFL team. Let's focus on the NFC North.
On the Vikings, PFF wrote:
Three weeks through the season, Justin Jefferson has the most catches (27) without dropping a pass, and he's done it whilst catching the most balls of 20 yards or more in the air (six).
Jefferson has talked about his desire to go an entire season without a drop. He had five last season and seven in 2021. So far, he's on track to accomplish what may be his most lofty individual goal yet.
On the Lions, Packers and Bears:
A tough week for Chicago, but free agent signing T.J. Edwards was able to rack up the most defensive stops in the run game for the week with seven.
A big day for Sam LaPorta saw him pick up 3.11 yards per route run — the most of any tight end this week.
In terms of our pass-rushing productivity metric, nobody has scored better than Rashan Gary on the season. He's turned 44 pass rushes into four sacks, one hit and eight hurries, good for a league-leading 19.3 PRP score.