Minnesota Vikings’ Adam Thielen surprised by UK fans’ love of NFL

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Minnesota Vikings’ wide receiver Adam Thielen is still surprised by the extent to which Britons have become bona-fide American football fans.

The 32-year-old has taken part in three NFL tours of London, ending his most recent visit with a 28-25 win over New Orleans Saints at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday.

It makes him one of few players to make the trip to all three venues used in the league’s 15-year history in the capital, all victories for Minnesota. It is not something he takes lightly.

“Heck yeah that means a lot to me,” he said. “I got to see all three stadiums, my first year I was on practice squad so I didn’t play but it always feels good to come over here and get a victory and what a great fanbase, what a great venue.

“I think there’s a great opportunity to expand this game. I honestly believe it’s the best game there is. I love football-slash-soccer but I just feel like American football there’s just something about it. You saw it here today.

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“It’s physical, it’s fun, it’s exciting, there’s a lot going on, there’s a lot of excitement and it just keeps you on your toes, so I hope we can continue to bring it to other countries and bring it to this country, because I feel like every time I come over here it’s usually four or five years apart, and I think the game has grown so much.

“People really understand. You kind of expect to be like, ‘Do you know anything about football?’ and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, I grew up watching American football, I played American football,’ so that’s pretty cool.”

Thielen, who on Sunday secured eight catches from nine targets for 72 yards, made his first trip to London with the Vikings side that beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-27 at Wembley in 2013, then followed that trip up in 2017 with a 33-16 victory over Cleveland Browns at Twickenham.

Sunday’s contest, the 100th international game in NFL history, was played in front of 60,639 and arguably the most exciting of Thielen’s journeys across the pond.

Minnesota got a touchdown early in the first quarter and extended their lead to 13-7 advantage by half-time.

But Saints bounced back with a touchdown and a conversion in the third, taking the lead for the first time through a Taysom Hill touchdown and a two-point conversion with 9:29 left in the fourth quarter to make it 22-19.

The Vikings secured another six points with a three-yard Justin Jefferson (a game-leading 10 catches from 13 targets for 147-yards) touchdown, but Greg Joseph, who went a perfect five-for-five on field goals on the afternoon, missed the one-point conversion.

The mistake that soon told was when Wil Lutz booted a 60-yard field goal through the uprights – the second-longest in Saints history – to level proceedings at 25 points with less than two minutes to go.

Minnesota replied with a field goal of their own, and Lutz’s last-gasp field goal attempt, from 61 yards this time, agonisingly pinged off the post then the crossbar to hand the Vikings the win.

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“I thought they were both in,” said Lutz. “I hit them both on the screws. I played them right there. The ball is going to move a little left. And the second one just moved a little more left. So kind of shocked it didn’t bounce in.

“Not every game is going to go your way obviously. It’s not the start of the season I want it to be. I take every one week one at a time, and I didn’t have thoughts, like, ‘this week.’ I thought I kicked the ball well today. But yeah, I wanted to hit that kick for the team. We needed a win today and that’s pretty frustrating.”

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