Minnesota Vikings alumnus Stefon Diggs is journeying to his second career conference championship. This time, he does so as an All-Pro wide receiver on the upstart Buffalo Bills.
Buffalo slogged its way to victory against the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday in the first of two AFC Divisional Playoff games during the pandemic season. For most of the evening, the Bills and Ravens tussled in a contest that was reminiscent of Ravens-Steelers games from the 2000s and 2010s. It also felt similar to Super Bowl LIII when the New England Patriots outlasted the Los Angeles Rams, 13-3.
Diggs’ entrance into the Bills offense last September marked the commencement of a new era in Buffalo – one that was highlighted by Josh Allen’s rapid maturation. This can be unmistakably attributed to Diggs’ talent and production. But Buffalo toppled Baltimore this weekend because of defense. Bills cornerback Taron Johnson ripped off a Lamar Jackson pass late in the third quarter and rumbled 101 yards for a game-changing touchdown. Then, the reigning league MVP, Jackson, was injured moments later all but sealing the Bills win.
The national media will spend ample time this week gushing over the Bills offensive renaissance, but it was the defense that defeathered the Ravens in this playoff tryst.
Regardless, Diggs did score a touchdown and his thumbprints were found all over the gameplan. He siphoned 30% of Allen’s pass attempts versus Baltimore tabulating 106 receiving yards.
Now Diggs and his Bills will travel to Kansas City next Sunday. Individually, Diggs has earned his chance at a redo of the 2017 NFC Championship – a game that resulted in a depressing Minnesota loss at Philadelphia.
And, it is ok to be happy for the former Viking.
Superstardom in BUF
Diggs maneuvering out of Minnesota is a topic of contention. Some say he wanted a trade because he was utilized too seldom in the Vikings offense. Others say he flat-out disliked Kirk Cousins, although Diggs has personally debunked the theory. Another camp maintains that general manager Rick Spielman received an irresistible trade offer from Buffalo, and that the trade was his personal brainchild.
The reason for his exodus is now interpretive nonfiction on the ash heap of Vikings history. The man is excelling to the utmost with the Bills. He led the NFL in receptions this season; he led the NFL in receiving yards, too. Diggs is also the most targeted man in America – Allen threw the ball in his direction a copious 166 times (the most to any pass-catcher in the NFL).
No matter the “why” of his departure, Diggs is thriving at an individual and team level. The man that co-wrote The Minneapolis Miracle deserves your pride.
Think LeBron James to Miami
To be clear, Diggs is not quite in a best-player-in-his-sport stratosphere like LeBron James. That moniker belongs to Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Donald. Yet, James’ career wavelength can be likened to Diggs, if only in a miniature degree.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were spectacular with James as their leader. He began his accrual of MVP trophies in Ohio. Eventually, he arrived at a standstill with Cavaliers management and opted for a geographical cure to his lack of championships. He found it in Miami. James would win two titles with the Heat and solidify his Hall of Fame credentials.
There was certifiably love lost by Clevelanders for James. His jersey was burned – at least by the most boisterous and animated fans. Murals were erased. Resentments loomed. But then James got homesick.
Diggs will not likely return to the Vikings, but stranger things have happened. He may or may not win a Super Bowl in Buffalo. The moral of the story, though, is that James bettered himself in Miami. Seven years later – James paid it forward in winning a championship with the Cavaliers when he returned home.
His jersey should not have been scorched by attention-seekers in the first place. A little bit of mutual respect and well-wishing can do wonders.
Diggs Evidently Not a Fit in MIN
Stefon Diggs momentarily abandoned his team at its lowest point in 2019. The Vikings were lifeless in a loss to the Bears, and Diggs was said to have gone missing. He later resurfaced, was fined, and made nice.
Was it ideal that Diggs skipped a practice? No. Is a brief dereliction unbecoming of leadership? Yes. Did Diggs grow and mature for the incident? Evidently. In the end, Diggs antics during those three days were a coming-of-age set of circumstances. If he never bails on a team again, it was an outlier misdeed of youth.
That transgression probably played a role in his exit from Minnesota. Actions spur consequences. For better or worse, Diggs was allotted a change of scenery – one that is reaping benefits for him.
Diggs is not alone in serendipitous consequence. The Vikings extracted from the Diggs trade rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson. In Jefferson’s first season, he had a better year statistically than Diggs ever had with the Vikings. With that in mind, contentment can found in reciprocity – Diggs’ brilliance on a different team and Jefferson’s limitless future in Minnesota.