Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen Dominate Offensive Play Rankings

Image courtesy of Vikings.com

Unfortunately, the offseason has started a little earlier than the Minnesota Vikings would have hoped.

While Minnesota ended its season on about as high of a note as it could have with a dominating 38-10 victory at home over the Chicago Bears, the Vikings will be watching the postseason from their couches as the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions compete for a Super Bowl.

The worst-case scenario has been engaged with the happiness of Vikings fans now in the hands of the Seattle Seahawks and, more so, the New York Giants — a pair of teams that are certainly capable of bringing peace and harmony back to Vikings Territory in one fell swoop this weekend.

There is not a single Vikings fan in the world who is happy to see the offseason arrive so soon, but there are a few benefits to this heartbreaking situation:

  1. Vikings have extra time to prepare for a critical NFL Draft and Free Agency period
  2. Vikings won’t control your happiness on Sundays for roughly 9 months
  3. Excellent offseason content from your favorite source, Vikings Territory

With a dark cloud currently hovering over Mike Zimmer’s kingdom, the best place to start the Vikings Territory offseason content cycle may very well be through a series of articles highlighting the most thrilling and critical moments and performances that we shared together throughout this rollercoaster ride of a 2016 season:

Basic Criteria: 1. Level of Difficulty 2. Game and/or Situational Importance 3. Entertainment Value

HM. RB MATT ASIATA 23-YARD RUSH VS. JAX

Well, that certainly caught me by surprise. Matt Asiata has certainly been a very solid situational running back throughout his tenure in Minnesota, but judging him based on athleticism and explosive rush attempts would be like grading a fish on its ability to walk on land.

Against the Jacksonville Jaguars, however, Asiata busted out potentially the most electric carry of his professional career. On a scale of 1-to-Braxton Miller that spin move was probably 6 or a 7, as the Vikings power-rusher leaves a Jaguar in the dust en route to a 23-yard gainer.

5. TE RHETT ELLISON 1-YARD TD VS. DET (W11)

This may very well have been my favorite Pat Shurmur play call of the season. Considering how much difficulty Minnesota had getting six points from inside the 20-yard line throughout the season, this certainly represented a situation that filled fans with dread.

A perfect moment to add to the long list of instances in which the Vikings got your hopes up only to throw your heart into a meat grinder, stomp on the flesh chunks, toss them into an incinerator and bake the remains with dog excrement before serving it back to you; Shurmur instead caught the Detroit Lions defense off-guard with a perfect play call with tight end Rhett Ellison carrying the rock across the goal line.

Down by four on the scoreboard with the clock dwindling below 30 seconds remaining against Detroit during Week 9, Shurmur dialed up a tight end jet sweep to Ellison. The niche role tight end, who has been used almost exclusively in pass protection, took the Sam Bradford handoff around the right corner of the line and into the end zone to put the Vikings in front by three.

What would happen over the course of the time remaining in the fourth quarter and overtime, however, certainly qualified for the earlier-described list of heartbreaking moments.

4. WR STEFON DIGGS 45-YARD CATCH VS. JAX

Following an impressive rookie season in 2016, much was expected from second-year wide receiver Stefon Diggs — and, when healthy, boy did he ever deliver. The Vikings made it their business to air it out against the Jaguars during Week 15, and air it out they did, as the Bradford completed three passes of 40-plus yards with the above video capturing the finest.

With Minnesota ahead by a field goal, Bradford executed a play-action fake to perfection out of the shotgun before unleashing a bomb downfield. Diggs, running a corner route from the outside of the formation, broke free of coverage and, just as it appeared the ball would fall harmlessly to the ground, the Vikings wide receiver went airborne to make a sensational 45-yard diving catch before oozing his trademark swagger all over the football field.

Teams will take 40-yard plays however they can get them, and while this particular one is no different, one can only imagine how beautiful of a catch-and-run touchdown this would have been had Bradford been able to hit Diggs in stride.

3. WR ADAM THIELEN 16-YARD TD VS. ARZ

As far as spectacular catches go, this touchdown by breakout wide receiver Adam Thielen was certainly the finest. Exemplifying his outstanding body control — and analyzed in an earlier article ahead of Week 17 — Thielen comes down with a terrific touchdown catch with cornerback Marcus Cooper groping him during a critical Week 11 showdown with the Arizona Cardinals.

Everything from the throw to the route to the catch itself was outstanding on this particular play, and had it not been for a pair of other fantastic touchdown receptions, this six-point reception by Thielen could easily have come in at No. 1 on this list.

2. WR ADAM THIELEN 71-YARD TD VS. GB (W16)

Throughout the course of a career-defining season, Thielen put together a large collection of highlight-reel plays. Included in this seminar of receiving excellence was Minnesota’s longest play from scrimmage of the 2016 campaign — a 71-yard catch-and-run against the Green Bay Packers (ew) during a Week 16 matchup at Lambeau Field.

Amid just the fifth 200-yard receiving performance in franchise history, the fourth-year star out of Minnesota State-Mankato made a pair of Green Bay (ew) defensive backs look positively silly. Breaking loose on a 9 route, Thielen hauled in a beautiful Bradford toss down the right sideline and avoided a converging defender — who then collided with another Packer (ew) cover man — before scampering to the house to bring the Vikings within eight points on the scoreboard.

Unfortunately, however, Thielen’s top highlight of the season was done in vain, as we all know how this rivalry matchup ultimately ends.

1. WR STEFON DIGGS: 25-YARD TD VS. GB (W2)

This rivalry matchup, however, was an instant classic and one that many Vikings fans will remember forever. With Teddy Bridgewater on the shelf and Bradford having been in Minnesota for just a little over a week, fans filed into U.S. Bank Stadium for the first game in regular season history worried of how the first entry in the building’s game log may eventually read.

Had it not been for Diggs’ efforts in this game, the Vikings may very well have lost the first game in their state-of-the-art stadium’s history. Amid one of the finest individual performances of the year, a nine catch, 182-yard performance, Diggs stretched Minnesota’s lead to 10 with the most epic of his three 2016 touchdowns.

On yet another perfectly ran corner route, the Vikings second-year receiver created just enough separation from Packers (ew) No. 1 cornerback Damarious Randall and Bradford — who has been potentially wrongly criticized for being a dink-and-dunk quarterback — dropped a perfect rainbow into his favorite target’s hands to throw six points up on the scoreboard.

The Vikings would go on tally victory No. 2 of the season against the Packers (ew) and keep their U.S. Bank record against their bitter rival pure for at least another year.

Others Considered: WR Adam Thielen 36-Yard TD vs. HOU; WR Stefon Diggs 25-Yard TD vs. CHI (W7); WR Cordarrelle Patterson 14-Yard TD vs. PHI; TE Kyle Rudolph 44-Yard Catch vs. JAX; RB Jerick McKinnon 10-Yard TD vs. CHI (W17); WR Cordarrelle Patterson 39-Yard Catch vs. CHI; QB Sam Bradford 24-Yard Rush vs. CHI (W17); WR Adam Thielen 24-Yard Catch vs. GB (W16).

Comment Below with the 2016 Vikings offensive plays that got you out of your seat and blowing into your Gjallarhorn until you were blue in the face. And, let us know if we got this list right.

 

NFL Film Clips courtesy of NFL Game Pass.