The Beginning:humble beginings
It's September of 2015. The Vikings are fresh off of a 7-9 season under their new Head Coach, Mike Zimmer. The Minnesota Defense went from allowing 30 points per game in 2013, to allowing 21.4, ranked 11th in 2014. The Minnesota identity had begun to shift from a former aerial powerhouse of the 1990's to a much more classic Minnesota look: a hard-nosed defense. Everson Griffen filled the shoes of Jared Allen without hitch, Xavier Rhodes had established himself as a lock-down corner, and the veteran leadership of Harrison Smith and Chad Greenway primed the young defense for another year of growth.
On the other side of the ball, the seemingly never-declining, future Hall-of-Fame running back, Adrian Peterson, was back after a 15 game absence in 2014. But, beyond the ball-carrier, hope/hype was building for the Vikings' passing attack. Teddy Bridgewater, entering his second year, showed all the flashes of a franchise QB that the Vikings had missed for over a decade. Equipped with athletic receivers like Mike Wallace and Cordarrelle Patterson, and the highly-revered Norv Turner running the offense, it seemed that an offensive explosion was inevitable.
It was not to be.
The offense produced a run-heavy attack, and a game-managing and fairly unproductive passing scheme. However, it worked. The Vikings won the NFC North for the first time since Brett Favre pulled one last miracle season out of his pads in 2009. Despite the return of the Vikings kicker curse and an abrupt wild-card exit in the 2015 playoffs, hope was high for a 2016 campaign that would erase the bitter end if 2015. Why? The Vikings knew that they found a receiver. What they didn't know...
They had two.
The Progress: Years' in the making.
Entering the 2016 season, the Vikings were poised for a strong season and a deep playoff run. Stefon Diggs, a 5th round pick a year ago, was primed to be the Vikings star wide-out, the former MVP, Adrian Peterson, was coming off of his third rushing title, and it was to be the year that Teddy Bridgewater finally had the talent around him to take the next step. And then...
August 30th, 2016. Teddy Bridgewater took a practice snap. He dropped back, and then collapsed, screaming in pain. His teammates gathered around him, fraught with concern, some barely able to keep from vomiting. There was no need to wait for an MRI. Teddy was done for the year, and he would maybe never play again. In fact, if it wasn't for the quick thinking of the team's training staff, Teddy could have easily lost his leg (Thankfully he did heal, and is currently playing with the Saints).
The season was two weeks away. The Vikings scrambled, and eventually gave up their 2017 first-round pick, and a conditional 2018 pick in exchange for the very rich journeyman QB, Sam Bradford. Needless to say, the 2016 season did not go as planned. Bradford played well, despite a host of Offensive Line injuries, and the defense held up well, but the season resulted in a .500 record and missing the playoffs.
Though the season did not turn out as planned, it was not without its' bright spots; chief among them is that the Vikings had two receivers who tallied over 900-yards a-piece. To no ones surprise, Stefon Diggs was one of them. To everyone's surprise, Adam Thielen was the other.
Adam Thielen, an undrafted former D-II standout and Detroit Lakes, MN native, who worked his way from barely making the practice squad to starting Wide Receiver in the NFL, burst onto the scene with 967 yards and 5 touchdowns. He lead the team in receiving yards, and Stefon Diggs lead in receptions, with 84.
Despite the great year, Thielen's production was largely seen as a fluke. Diggs' play was viewed as the next step for a budding star, but the humble Thielen was slotted as nothing more than a WR#2 for the 2017 season.
Thielen silenced the doubters in 2017 with 91 receptions for 1276 yards, 5th in the entire league. Diggs chipped in another solid, though incomplete, year with 64 receptions for 849 yards and 8 touchdowns. The exciting play continued into the playoffs, and culminated with the Minneapolis Miracle. A 61-yard play where Case Keenum hit Stefon Diggs for a crazy touchdown that will forever be remembered in the NFL Hall of Fame in the form of Stefon Diggs' cleats.