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Tyler Conklin Showing Completeness at Tight End, Adding Spark for Vikings

EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings didn't take long to answer the Seahawks with a Tyler Conklin touchdown Sunday afternoon in an eventual 30-17 win.

Seattle took an early 7-0 lead, but Minnesota responded by driving smoothly down the field to set up first-and-goal from the 8-yard line.

Alexander Mattison gained a yard on a first-down handoff, and on the following play, Kirk Cousins connected with Conklin on an out-breaking route. The tight end made the grab despite tight coverage from linebacker Jordyn Brooks, managing to step backwards into the end zone before being taken down.

Conklin's score occurred four plays after he caught a play-action pass for a gain of 17 and helped kick off the Vikings offense that hummed along en route to a Minnesota win.

He nearly got in the end zone again just before halftime, making a 16-yard catch before he was tackled by Jamal Adams at the 3. Conklin lined up wide, to the outside of Adam Thielen, and cut inside after Thielen carried his defender down the field and created a legal obstacle for linebacker Cody Barton.

"It was just a play we had in, knowing one read was for man, one read was for zone," Conklin said. "You line up out there and you see you have a linebacker on you, you know you have man coverage. You kind of expect the ball fast.

"That's one of those plays where you practice it, you drill it, and then the game comes and it happens just how you practiced it," he added.

Justin Jefferson caught a 3-yard touchdown on the following play.

"Tyler's doing a good job," Head Coach Mike Zimmer told media members Monday. "He's done a nice job blocking, [and] they had man-to-man on one of the routes, and he beat the guy on the inside breaking route.

"He's doing a nice job," Zimmer continued. "He's a good, solid player, and a good guy, and a good worker."

Conklin has embraced increased responsibility in the absence of Irv Smith, Jr., who is on Injured Reserve with a knee injury. He finished Sunday with career highs in catches (seven) and yards (70). The 26-year-old played 54 (72 percent) of Minnesota's 75 offensive snaps.

From being a fifth-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft to being tasked with so much, Conklin is grateful for the journey he's taken and each opportunity he's received.

"It's kind of the way my whole career's unfolded, [going] back to college, being a walk-on," Conklin said. "I had to kind of wait on my opportunity and take advantage of it then. Obviously here, being behind a Pro Bowler in Kyle [Rudolph] and Irv … so I'm just grateful."

Evident this season has been an increased chemistry between Conklin and Cousins, who have thus far totaled 13 completions for 126 yards and a touchdown.

It's no surprise to Conklin that things are clicking, though. It all goes back to this summer's training camp.

"Me, Irv, all the tight ends and Kirk would throw after practice, whether it was red zone or maybe three or four routes, after practice," Conklin said. "We've been trying to build that trust and timing throughout the offseason, and then obviously as games come and big plays, making third-down catches, doing things to stay on the field and instill the trust when bullets are flying."

View the Vikings in "Big Head Mode" as the team defeated the Seahawks at U.S. Bank Stadium in their home opener.

Conklin's progression allows the Vikings to continue opening up their offense and spreading the ball around even without Smith on the field.

And while Conklin may be emerging as a bigger name for fans, his teammates have known all along the big plays he's capable of.

"Conk', we know what kind of player he is," Adam Thielen said. "We see it every single day. We were just kind of waiting for him to take off."

Conklin is ready for games like Sunday's to be more of the norm – but that doesn't mean he won't accept the hype from friends and family after an impressive outing.

"I'm trying to still sort through all [the messages] and text everybody back," he laughed of his busy phone following the game. "Yeah, it was blowing up a little bit."