MINNEAPOLIS – When Chad Beebe's number was called, he echoed the advice he'd gotten from teammates leading up to the big moment.
Laquon Treadwell said that he and the Vikings other receivers reminded Beebe to just "have fun and relax" if he tasted his first NFL action Sunday. Beebe was signed to Minnesota's 53-man roster Saturday after spending the first half of the season on the practice squad.
"That's all he said in the huddle – 'Have fun, guys.' And I'm like, 'Look at Chad. He's out there just enjoying it all,' " Treadwell said.
With Stefon Diggs sidelined with a rib injury, Beebe got his shot.
Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins completed a 2-yard pass to Beebe on third-and-4, the fifth play of the game. When Minnesota opted to go for it on fourth-and-2, Cousins went right back to Beebe, connecting with the rookie for 13 yards and the first down.
"Getting that first catch definitely helped. Obviously at first there were some jitters," Beebe said. "It's all new to me still; I have a lot to learn. I had a pretty fun day."
While nerves are to be expected, Beebe said it came easily to remind his teammates – and himself – to have a good time and enjoy the moment.
"I just love the game, so that helps. I'm passionate about it," Beebe said. "But I have to just give the credit to the Lord. He has just brought me to peace about everything here and being on the field, being able to play in an NFL game – with the story that I have, kind of coming from nowhere. I have to give credit to the Lord on that one."
Beebe has spoken about his faith a few times since joining the Vikings as an undrafted free agent this spring. The 5-foot-10, 183-pound receiver out of Northern Illinois knew it was a longshot to make an NFL team but gave it his all and trusted that things would work out.
Making it onto the field in an NFL regular-season game was a big step, and Beebe made it count. The son of former NFL receiver Don Beebe finished the game with three catches – two of which moved the chains – for 21 yards.
"I felt like I could belong here, and I was just going to continue to practice and treat every day like it was game day," Beebe said. "I continued that each and every day, and here we are now."
Cousins said that Beebe has shown characteristics similar to those of Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, including quick-twitch movements, understanding technique and understanding when to push the route up "to sell a different cut before you make your cut."
"There's a savvy there, but there is also a wiring in terms of your athleticism," said Cousins, who was able to trust Beebe.
"I think we had confidence that he could do that today to the point where we went to him twice in crucial situations against man coverage," Cousins said.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer told media members he had been waiting for a chance to implement Beebe.
"I knew Beebe was good; we've been trying to get him activated for about three weeks now," Zimmer said. "He's like that every day in practice, and it wasn't a surprise to me what he did during the game."
With Diggs sidelined, Thielen received plenty of attention from Detroit's defenders. His streak of games with 100-plus receiving yards was snapped, and he recorded just four catches for 22 yards and a touchdown. The Vikings win over the Lions mattered much more to Thielen than his personal stats, however, and he was happy for teammates who received more opportunities.
Thielen said he "couldn't have been more proud or excited" when he heard that Beebe was promoted to the 53-man roster.
"The hard work he puts in and the plays he consistently makes every week, that's what you want. You cheer for guys that go and bust their tails," Thielen said. "They make plays against the starters every week in practice, and he continued to make big plays this game. He was huge in the success of our offense."
Beebe wasn't the only receiver who stepped up in Sunday's game.
Treadwell started in place of Diggs and recorded 37 yards on two catches, including a 22-yard catch just before halftime. After a Lions punt, Marcus Sherels returned the ball 24 yards to set up the Vikings at first-and-10 from their own 48.
Cousins targeted Treadwell on the first play with 39 seconds left in the quarter, and he moved the Vikings into Lions territory.
"I saw the defense drop out … and the guy who was guarding me, he was trailing me, so I knew I had to get over there, it was an opportunity for me to catch and run," Treadwell said. "We had three timeouts, so I'm looking and I'm like, 'OK, I've still got more room to run.' As I sprinted to the sideline, I'm like, 'OK, I still have more yards I can get before I get out of bounds. We can either get a field goal or run another play.' So it was a great play call by [Vikings Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo], and we just executed really well."
Treadwell's catch helped set Minnesota up for a 39-yard field goal that gave the Vikings a 17-6 lead.
Aldrick Robinson also contributed to the Vikings receiving corps, logging a pair of catches for 20 yards. Robinson had the opportunity for a likely score on a deep ball down the right sideline, but he couldn't quite make the grab.
Cousins said he noticed after halftime that Detroit not only double-teamed Thielen but gave extra coverage to Beebe, as well.
"So now the ball has to go somewhere else, and I think that's where you saw why we threw the ball deep to Aldrick or why we threw to Laquon or some other people," Cousins said. "Even a couple times when I tried to fit it in to Adam against double coverage – sometimes successfully, sometimes not. You just try to assess how the defense is playing you and get the ball to the open guy."
After a week of film study on the Lions, Robinson and the Vikings knew what to expect from Detroit's secondary and tried to plan accordingly.
"Detroit, they play a lot of man [coverage], so everybody knew it was going to be a 1-on-1 type of game, whether they were doubling [Thielen] or not," Robinson said. "That's the type of team they are – they play man, so we had to be man today. We accepted the challenge, and it turned out well."
Treadwell said the group would have preferred to have Diggs on the field, but he appreciated the opportunity to make plays when called upon.
"Of course he gets a lot of the targets, and Adam, but it was just another moment for us to step up and help this team win however we can," Treadwell said. "Chad did that, and Aldrick did that. We all stepped up and we did a good job together as a unit, filling that void. Just playing for our brother that's hurt right now."
Added Robinson: "You're only as strong as your weakest link. We all know that we have to pick up slack when it's needed, and we accept that challenge. We take pride in what we do, and we go out there every day and work hard during practice to make sure we're ready for the game."