MINNEAPOLIS – Stefon Diggs flew down the field and caught a perfectly placed pass from Kirk Cousins in-stride, crossing from green turf into purple for a 62-yard touchdown.
He was met in the end zone by teammates and received an embrace from Adam Thielen, who earlier had scored Minnesota’s first TD.
“When you get that guy going, watch out,” Thielen said. “We know we have to get him the ball because he’s a special player, one of the best in the game, and we’re blessed to have him on our side.”
The score put the Vikings up by 14 en route to an eventual 38-20 victory over the Eagles, and it marked the first of Diggs’ three – yes, three – touchdowns on the day.
Just two minutes later and on the first play of a second-quarter drive, Cousins wound up and fired downfield for Diggs again, hitting the receiver for a 51-yard score.
Cousins broke down the play, explaining that the Eagles had busted coverage and “probably didn’t want to defend it that way,” leaving Diggs and rookie receiver Bisi Johnson open as options.
“I think the corner looked like he was probably expecting help over the top on Diggs, and then I think the safety … if he’s flat-footed, he’s expecting somebody else to be backing him up,” Cousins said. “I think they probably would tell you that something – signals got crossed there. But yeah, we looked at the picture, and you could see you had Bisi on the far post, and you had Diggsy on the takeoff – both of them were there.”
Post touchdown, gas remained in Diggs’ tank to celebrate with a “track-and-field sprint” against running back Dalvin Cook from one edge of the end zone.
He explained that it played on a friendly competition between the two.
“We talk a lot of junk to each other about who’s faster,” Diggs said. “Of course we all know Dalvin is fast, but I’m going to continue to challenge him as much as I can.”
With two touchdowns under his belt, he wasn’t done yet.
Late in the third quarter, Minnesota faced a second-and-10 from the Philadelphia 11, and Cousins once again connected with Diggs.
The receiver tapped the toes of his colorfully painted “Crucial Catch”-themed cleats just inside the back of the end zone for a score that widened the point gap after the Eagles had battled to within four.
Diggs’ three receiving touchdowns in one game was the first such accomplishment by a Viking since Marcus Robinson did so against the Browns in 2005.
“I’m proud of that guy for sticking in there,” Cook told media members after the game. “We haven’t been getting him the ball as much as we did before in previous years, so he’s been sticking it out, he’s been a great teammate. And when you [do that], positive things come behind that. And today, he was special for us.
“He’s a joy to be around. If you’re around a guy enough, you can see when he’s in the locker room, he makes guys laugh and is just a good teammate to be around,” Cook later added. “It’s been fun to be around him. I’m just happy he’s my teammate.”
The afternoon was an eventful one across the board for Diggs, who also was involved in non-scoring plays that picked on Philadelphia’s defense.
Twice, he played a part in double reverse plays.
Early in the game, Dalvin Cook took the pitch from Cousins and shoveled it to Diggs, who crossed behind the running back to his left and gained 10 yards. Later in the game, it was Thielen who got the ball from Cousins and dumped it off to Diggs.
View postgame celebration images from Sunday as the Vikings beat the Eagles by a 38-20 score.
The play call dictated a pass by Diggs, but he couldn’t find the open target, so he instead scrambled for an eight-yard gain himself.
“It was a pass, I was trying to throw the ball, but we had a little bit of coverage downfield, so I just tucked the ball and ran it. A ‘get what we can get’ situation,” Diggs explained. “I feel like those types of plays just give the defense a different look, spice it up a little bit and give some guys a chance.”
You really wanted to throw it, though, didn’t you?
“A hundred percent. I wanted to,” Diggs responded to a reporter. “I wanted to show off what I could do, but things happen.”
He took responsibility for a pair of drops on the day, including one late in the first half that popped into the air and was intercepted by former Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo.
It was Diggs who took down Sendejo after a 15-yard return. The Eagles took over on offense but didn’t come away with any points after a fake field goal attempt was picked off by Everson Griffen.
“I’ve been thinking about those two drops for a while,” Diggs said. “I feel like when things go bad, they usually get worse. So, it was bad I took my eye off the ball, it goes in the air, and it got worse. So, I had to make a tackle.”
Diggs finished the day with seven catches for 167 yards, averaging 23.9 yards per reception.
Defensive teammates enjoyed watching the offense make things happen and heavily involving Diggs, who “just did what Diggs does,” according to linebacker Anthony Barr.
“Give him some opportunities, and he’s going to make plays,” Barr said. “It’s good to get him involved in the game, and it opens things up for other people.”
Added Eric Kendricks: “He was awesome. My favorite was that fingertip he catch he made.”
Asked if he anticipated having a big outing, Diggs said you can never be certain how any given game will unfold.
“You never really know how it’s going to come up, because you never know what defense you’re going to get and the adjustments they’re going to make,” Diggs said. “But starting fast early is always a big thing because you want to hit the ground running, whether it’s the run or the pass, so I just [tried] to do my job.”
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer pointed out that Philadelphia’s defense left Diggs in single coverage more than once.
“[Their] safety came out of the middle a few times and gave us some opportunities,” Zimmer said.
“We always have some deep ones in [the playbook],” he continued. “It’s protection first – you’ve got to make sure you can protect, and if a team is doing that, then you’ve got an opportunity to hit some down the field.”
Diggs emphasized the importance of finding a rhythm and credited Cousins, who was 22-of-29 passing for 333 yards and four touchdowns with a passer rating of 138.4.
“The more comfortable you are out there, getting into a rhythm – especially at the quarterback position – just completing those passes and getting into a rhythm is huge,” Diggs said. “As a receiver, you want the same thing … catching a couple passes, getting a couple ones out of the way, and then you can start feeling more comfortable and feeling the game. The more opportunities you make, you start feeling the game more.”