Adam Thielen said earlier this week that Sunday's game against Washington would be a big one, and his ensuing performance matched the magnitude of the matchup.
Thielen recorded an impressive 166 receiving yards on just eight catches in a 38-30 victory to help Minnesota win its fifth consecutive game and move to 7-2 on the season.
He didn't make his first catch until the Vikings third series of the game, but Thielen made it count.
On third-and-4 from the Vikings 43-yard line, Case Keenum – making his seventh start in Purple – found Thielen, who made the grab for 38 yards. The big catch placed the Vikings in the red zone and ultimately led to a Stefon Diggs touchdown to give Minnesota a 14-10 lead.
Another catch, another 38-yard gain.
Thielen's second reception came late in the quarter, when he hauled in a perfectly placed Keenum pass and moved the chains far into Washington territory. Keenum found the receiver again on the following play, a deep ball to Thielen for 17 yards.
Keenum handed off to Jerick McKinnon on first-and-goal from the Redskins 5, but the running back was stopped for a loss of two. On second down, Keenum scrambled to avoid blitz pressure while eyeing the end zone and then firing at, and hitting, his target – Thielen's gold gloves in between two defenders.
"Yeah, he is [always seeming to get open]," Keenum said after the game. "Just throw it near him. He did a great job on his little scramble drill. I was able to escape the pocket for a little bit. A great catch. It may have looked like an easy little thing, but I threw it hard, and I was really close to him. I was running at him, and he was running at me."
The touchdown enabled Minnesota to once again leap-frog Washington and take a 21-14 lead, and Thielen's post-score celebration fit perfectly.
Thielen immediately got down on his hands and knees in the end zone, and center Pat Elflein assumed the same position in front of him, followed by Nick Easton. Diggs and Thielen then leap-frogged over their teammates, executing another childhood favorite that came five weeks after the Duck, Duck, Gray Duck celebration at Chicago.
"Yeah we've been talking about it for the past couple weeks, and we talked about it in the huddle. We got in the red zone, and we're like, 'OK, this is what we're going to do,' " Thielen explained. "I was just hoping somebody caught on when I got on the ground, because it would have looked weird if I was on the ground by myself. It worked out good."
He later added: "We just want to show [that] this is a child's game we're playing, and we get to play it as a profession, so we might as well have fun like we did when we were kids."
In the third quarter, Thielen caught a 6-yard pass before his longest of the day, a 49-yarder deep over the middle that he was able to catch in stride. Keenum eluded pressure there also, ducking the hand of Terrell McClain before launching the ball downfield.
"That's kind of why I just put my hand up and ran, because I saw him break out of the pocket," Thielen said. "That's one thing that we know he does really well, so we're kind of always on the alert for that, and we're always just trying to find a hole when he does break the pocket."
Three plays later, Keenum connected with receiver Jarius Wright for the Vikings fifth touchdown of the afternoon.
Thielen caught two more passes for 9 and 2 yards, respectively, en route to Minnesota's defeat of Washington.
"It was a huge win," Thielen said. "We knew that we needed it for some momentum forward because when you have the London week and the bye week, you kind of go into a little bit of a lull, and you want to make sure that you come out strong in the second half."
Keenum said that he continues to be amazed by Thielen's performance, both his ability to get open and then to make tough catches.
"There's a few times where he's pretty well covered and makes a catch. I haven't been around that type of guy ever," Keenum said. "He plays all of the positions. He knows every position. He knows the whole offense. He helps guys, everybody else, know what to do and where to go.
"As a whole receiver corps, they're all so good at communicating and talking and being on the same page," Keenum added. "They do a great job. It's a fun group to be around. We're lucky to have those guys on our team."
Sunday marked Thielen's second 100-plus-yard game and fifth contest with more than 90 yards receiving this season. He also stands as the NFL's only player with at least five catches in each game.
When asked by a reporter if he was "extra fired up" headed into Week 10, Thielen said he can't help being excited.
"I love to play football," Thielen said. "I love to be on the field and get the ball thrown my way, and I think that's what's great about this group – we have a lot of guys who just love to play this game. When it's game day, it just kind of lets that emotion out, and that's how you know that you really love the game."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer praised Thielen during his post-game media session, saying that he "does everything" and has an incredible work ethic that has enabled him to be so successful after originally starting his pro career as an undrafted rookie.
"Adam blocks defensive ends, he blocks linebackers in the running game, he runs great routes," Zimmer said. "I guess the best example for Adam is we had third-and-1, I believe it was, and we ran a boot, and he caught the ball about two yards behind the line of scrimmage and made two people miss to get the first down in order to kick the field goal to go up by two scores.
"So that's just him," Zimmer added. "He's a great competitor; somehow he finds a way to make a play, and he's been doing it all year. He found a way to make the team, he found a way [today]. That's just him. He finds a way."