The Vikings held an eight-point lead and were facing a third-and-11 from the Washington 35-yard line on Sunday, when Case Keenum threw a low pass for Adam Thielen that would have given Minnesota a first down.
Thielen was unable to make the difficult reception as he slid toward the ground. The realization that Thielen isn’t just a very good receiver but is arguably a star came from the immediate reaction to that moment in the fourth quarter.
“How did Thielen not catch that ball?”
It would have been a difficult play but we have become accustomed to seeing the fourth-year player come up with that ball. Thielen’s hands appear to have come with a glue-type substance on them that enables him to hang onto nearly everything thrown his way.
When he doesn’t catch a pass thrown in his vicinity, one is left wondering how Thielen failed to make the grab. Of course, that isn’t fair considering we now expect Thielen to make even the spectacular look routine.
In the Vikings’ 38-30 victory Sunday in Washington, Keenum threw a game-high 12 passes toward Thielen. He caught eight of them for 166 yards and a touchdown.
The eight receptions were his second-most this season behind the nine he caught in the opener against New Orleans and the Vikings’ victory over Green Bay on Oct. 15. His 166 receiving yards marked the second-highest total of his career; Thielen caught 12 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns last December in Green Bay.
Keenum, who also completed four passes to Stefon Diggs for 78 yards and a touchdown on Sunday, found Thielen on a 7-yard scoring pass in the second quarter that gave the Vikings a 21-17 lead.
The most impressive connection between the two came in the third quarter when Keenum lobbed a perfect pass that Thielen caught behind two defensive backs and went 49 yards with to the Redskins’ 12-yard line. Three plays later, Keenum connected with Jarius Wright on a 7-yard touchdown pass to give the Vikings a 35-17 lead.
But it isn’t the big play that makes Thielen stand out to his head coach. Mike Zimmer, rather, pointed to a third-and-1 play from the Washington 36 in the fourth quarter. Washington had made it a one-score game when Thielen caught a Keenum pass and gained 2 yards for the first down.
That came on the same drive that Thielen failed to make the difficult catch on Keenum’s throw. That drive, however, ended with Kai Forbath making a 53-yard field goal to put the Vikings up by 11 points.
“Adam does everything,” Zimmer said. “Adam blocks defensive ends, he blocks linebackers in the running game, he runs great routes. I guess the best example for Adam is we had third-and-1 and we ran a boot and he caught the ball about 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage, made two people miss to get the first down in order to kick the field goal to go up by two scores. That’s just him. He’s a great competitor and 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 (out of Minnesota State as a free agent) … that’s just him. He finds a way.”