At a time when the Minnesota Vikings are struggling offensively as much as they have since the worst days of the Christian Ponder/Joe Webb era, wide receiver Stefon Diggs is reaching some rarified air.
The Vikings have only had two 1,000-yard receivers since they traded Randy Moss after the 2003 season – Nate Burleson in 2004 and Sidney Rice in 2009.
Coming off his record-setting day Sunday, Diggs is at 710 yards with seven games to play. Last year, Diggs led the Vikings with 52 catches, which he has already surpassed, and 720 yards, which means he needs just 11 more to eclipse.
He has put himself in the record books as being the first player in NFL history to have back-to-back games with 13 or more receptions and has put himself in extremely elite company on the NFL leaderboard.
Diggs is tied with Julio Jones for third in the league in receptions with 61 – trailing only Antonio Brown (69) and Larry Fitzgerald (68). His 710 receiving yards rank him ninth in receiving yards.
What made his 13-catch, 164-yard performance even more impressive was that it was his first chance to return home. He grew up in Maryland and attended the University of Maryland.
It was his first chance as a pro to play in front of family and friends, so it was a bittersweet homecoming divided between losing a key game and playing in front of his family and being one of the most dominant players on the field.
"It was exciting,” Diggs said. “The main part about it was I was around my family. It hurt to come home and lose but I'm a professional at the end of the game. I'm going to band with my brothers and fight for my brothers. That's all I can really do. Just keep fighting. That's how I was born, just keep fighting."
He was Sam Bradford’s security blanket at the only times the Vikings moved the ball with any consistency. In the second quarter alone, he caught five passes for 102 yards. In the fourth quarter, he caught eight passes for 62 yards as the Vikings were in comeback mode late.
Bradford has come to count on Diggs the last two games when his familiar Pat Shurmer-led play-calling is being operated. In both weeks since the change from Norv Turner, Diggs has been the breakout player in the new system and Bradford has been impressed with what he has seen.
"Similar to last week, I thought Diggs did a great job just finding some of the soft spots in the zone underneath,” Bradford said. “When he was presented with man coverage he did a great job just creating separation and making plays against that, too. I thought Diggs did a great job today.”
Diggs was happy to be in front of those who helped shape his early life, but not coming away with a win was the lasting memory of what could have been an idyllic trip home with late-drive success.
"It hurt a little bit. I want to win for my family and for this team. I want to do everything I can," he said. "Just back to the drawing board. Continue to scrap and continue to work hard. You can tell it hurt a little bit."
Following the game, before he returned to Minnesota, Diggs was going to say goodbye to his blood family to return back to Minnesota with his football family.
Asked if he had talked to family postgame, he was going to track them down, but, after that, it was back to business with his adopted family back in Minnesota, where their job just got a lot tougher.
"I'm going to find them. Have a little conversation with them because I love them," he said. "Got some good luck from my daughter pregame. I just keep fighting with my brothers. It's going to shake, we’re going to shake back."