Entering Sunday's game at SoFi Stadium, Vikings tight end Tyler Conklin had two touchdowns over four NFL seasons.
And now? He's got four.
Conklin played a key role in the Vikings road defeat of the Chargers, with two short scoring catches to help Minnesota improve to 4-5 on the season.
His first score occurred late in the first half and in a clump of powder blue. On second-and-goal from the 5, quarterback Kirk Cousins fired into Conklin, who was sandwiched between linebackers Kenneth Murray and Kyzir White.
Conklin secured the ball and didn't let go.
"[Cousins] knew there was gonna be a tight window in between two 'backers," FOX color analyst and former QB Mark Sanchez said. "This is a low, second-base type throw. He had to get that before Kenneth Murray came and just decapitated Conklin. So he put that ball down low, down-and-dirty."
The touchdown gave Minnesota a 10-point lead, capitalizing on an impressive Eric Kendricks interception just five plays earlier.
Vikings fans know all too well how quickly a lead can be lost, though, and they were reminded of that again Sunday when the Chargers scored a touchdown just before the half and again early in the third quarter, putting them up 17-13.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer and his team didn't panic, though, and they didn't spiral.
Instead, Cousins led Minnesota back down the field to leapfrog L.A. on the scoreboard. Justin Jefferson made an impressive 27-yard grab to move the Vikings into Chargers territory, and a defensive pass interference flag on cornerback Chris Harris, Jr., gifted Minnesota a first down on third-and-10.
Cousins connected with Adam Thielen for a gain of 19, but three consecutive runs by Dalvin Cook from the 6-yard line netted just 5 yards. Zimmer opted for aggressiveness over taking the "easier" three points of a field goal, keeping his offense on the field on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
Even though Cousins' arm was hit as he released the ball and it fluttered, Conklin was able to corral it.
"It hung in the air for what seemed like forever, and Tyler Conklin ran under it for 6," FOX's Kevin Kugler said.
Sanchez pointed out that Conklin motioned to the right pre-snap and ended up all the way over on the left side of the end zone for the score.
"Look at Conklin the entire way, running across the screen. This is just goal-line flake blast, all the way," Sanchez said, who noted that Cousins barely got the pass off before being hit by Amen Ogbongbemiga.
The ball also was nearly tipped by Jerry Tillery, but Conklin waited for his moment and made the play.
Another look at the play showed that Conklin got free from defenders when Chargers safeties Derwin James and Alohi Gilman collided in the end zone.
"It's sort of like a crossing play, so there's a good possibility something like that happens," Conklin said of the friendly fire. "And I think it was [Blake] Brandel on the other crosser … playing tight end for the play. It ended up working out perfect, but it's not necessarily the design."
Conklin and his teammates appreciated the plucky play-calling in a close game that helped Minnesota come out on top.
"You know, you do it all week in practice. You see you're going to get these fourth-and-2 plays and fourth-and-3 plays," Conklin said. "We're going to throw the ball. We're going to get the ball on the outside. We're going to take some of these gutsier play calls.
"It shows a lot of confidence is us as players," he added. "So to be able to go and get that done for him after he shows confidence, that feels really good."
The Vikings have competed in more close contests (eight games decided by one score) than they'd care to this season, but at least on Sunday they came out on the positive side. Zimmer has emphasized the need to close out games, and Conklin was proud to help Minnesota do that Sunday.
"I think that's the NFL for you," Conklin said. "Most games are decided by six points. So in order to be in these close games early in the season – and you lose some and you win some – but as a team you want to get hot at the right time. You want to learn how to win these games.
"The fact that we're in them a lot and we're learning how to win them and overcome adversity and winning the tough ones, I think, is really going to be beneficial for us in the long run," he added.