MINNEAPOLIS — What is it about NFL underdogs recording their first career touchdowns as Vikings against the Panthers?
Nearly six years to the day that Adam Thielen blocked a punt and returned it 30 yards for his first career touchdown, Chad Beebe recorded his first career score on a 10-yard pass from Kirk Cousins with 46 seconds left on the clock.
Beebe's catch tied the game and was followed by Dan Bailey's extra point that gave Minnesota a 28-27 comeback victory over Carolina on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
An undrafted free agent who joined the Vikings in 2018, Beebe came through in the clutch against the Panthers squad that his father, Don, had played for as a free agent during Carolina's inaugural season.
Thielen, now an All-Pro and Pro Bowl receiver for the Vikings, was watching from home after being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. His wife Caitlin captured video of Thielen going bananas on behalf of his teammates.
Pre-game question: How would the Vikings compensate for missing Thielen, who entered Week 12 atop the NFL leaderboard with 11 touchdown catches?
The global answer is by committee with an extremely rare level of distribution.
Four Vikings players recorded seven receptions, and each of the four players had more than 60 yards through the air.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, that was just the second time in NFL history for a team to have four players with seven or more catches and at least 60 yards apiece, joining New Orleans on Dec. 23, 2012.
Bisi Johnson delivered career highs of seven catches and 74 yards, and rookie Justin Jefferson added 70 yards and scored twice on his seven receptions. Tight end Kyle Rudolph added season bests of seven catches and 68 yards, and Beebe finished with 63 yards on seven catches.
Kirk Cousins didn't just lock in on one target. Instead, he read the defense and delivered the footballs with an Olympic archer's accuracy during Minnesota's final two possessions of the game.
Cousins was 12-of-13 passing for 136 yards and two scores, with the only incompletion occurring on a good decision to live to another play, on his last two drives.
Jefferson provided a pair of great routes in the red zone for Minnesota's first two touchdowns, and Beebe won his matchup to make up for a punt he had muffed moments earlier.
The Vikings defense only allowed a field goal after the Panthers got the ball at the Minnesota 9-yard line, enabling the late-game heroics.
"That's why they're called teammates. There were times even in the course of the game, after they scored those two touchdowns, guys were going up and down the field saying, 'Hey, we're 10 points down. Let's go. It's not a big deal. We can overcome this.' We continue to fight, continue to fight, and things continue to get better for us. Typically, when you fight your rear end off, things usually get better."
— Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer
"Great job versus Cover 0, the first touchdown just went inside across his defender's face, and then the second one, again, is just trying to be patient with him and let him run his route, and he did a great job finishing the play, because linebackers there, they're coming, and I've seen those throws caught, and he's out at the 1-yard line, and he fought for the front pylon and got us in, and that's just a great play by him. Other than that, I thought the Panthers' defense did a really good job of kind of taking away a lot of the opportunities we were trying to give him, whether it was double teams or a soft corner or a safety over the top, and you could tell they were aware of where he was and trying to kind of make it hard to get him the football, especially if it was going to be down the field."
— Cousins on Jefferson
"He kept flashing and showing that he was such a great player. Yet, a combination of factors were kind of preventing him from getting more opportunities, so I was really encouraged by the last few weeks of him getting out there and being able to make some more plays for us, and then today, to have the game-winning touchdown and make so many plays. He had a big play on a third down early in the game when we were backed up. He's a great player. He showed it today, and he's one of those guys where if we give him opportunities, he's going to make plays, but we'll see week to week what we have as far as personnel and how we want to attack teams."
— Cousins on Beebe
"Obviously we missed Adam a lot. But we did a lot of growing up today, which was awesome to see. It'll be exciting going forward when we get Adam back. I feel like our group got a lot better today, and there's a lot of exciting things ahead."