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Vikings coach Mike Zimmer downplays Thielen-Cousins issue

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Minnesota struggling with league’s worst-rated passing offense

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Oakland Raiders v Minnesota Vikings
Adam Thielen
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

What happened after the Minnesota Vikings lost to the Chicago Bears on Sunday is not something you see every day in the NFL. Wide receiver Adam Thielen called out quarterback Kirk Cousins for missing throws, and the quarterback actually publicly apologized.

On Thursday, Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer downplayed and reported issues during his conference call with New York writers.

“Quite honestly, that was headlines. I watched the whole interview and that was not what happened whatsoever. I would stay away from reading the headlines on that,” Zimmer said. “Adam Thielen is a terrific team player. If you watch the article he’ll tell you that he’s going to be the first one into work tomorrow and he’s gotta do better and work harder. It was nothing like what the headline said.”

Here is what Thielen said immediately after the game:

“At some point, you’re not going to be able to run the ball for 180 yards, even with the best running back in the NFL,” Thielen said at his locker after the game, via The Athletic. “That’s when you have to be able to throw the ball. You have to be able to make plays. You have to be able to hit the deep balls. You have to do that.”

Thielen also commented on one specific missed opportunity:

“He made a great read of finding me open, and just didn’t complete the pass,” Thielen said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Cousins took the unusual step of apologizing when he spoke to media earlier this week:

“No, like he said, it’s reality,” Cousins said. “I really want to apologize to him because there’s too many opportunities where we could have hit him on Sunday, and postgame when I talk to the media, I always say until I watch the film, it’s hard for me to really give you a straight answer. Well, now it’s Tuesday night. I’ve watched the film. And the reality is there were opportunities for him.” ...

“Adam’s not just a really good player or one of the best players on the Vikings. He’s one of the best players in the NFL, one of the best players in the world, period, regardless of position. We want to, we need to -- and when I saw ‘we,’ really I mean I need to -- get him more opportunities, get him the football.

”There’s a couple as I go back and watch it, a dagger, a corner post, a fade throw in the end zone where I can make it easier on him, give him opportunities. Yes, was the Bears’ front seven really good? Yes. Did they make plays on the back end occasionally? Yes. But I didn’t help things with giving him more opportunities. If we run the ball successfully, if we run the ball more consistently, so be it. But when we do take our shots or we have our chances, we’ve got to hit them.

Thielen, for his part, insisted he had not taken a shot at his quarterback:

“My comments yesterday after the game [were meant in] a very broad sense, I think any team is going to tell you you can’t be one-dimensional. And that’s not a shot at anyone,” Thielen told reporters.

The Vikings, paying cousins $28 million this season, bring the league’s lowest-ranked passing offense into Sunday’s game vs. the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.

“I’m surprised a little bit,” Zimer said of the difficulties throwing the ball. “We really didn’t do a good job [vs. the Bears] in any offensive area. I wouldn’t put all that on Kirk. Like I told the team there was enough blame to go around.”

We will find out Sunday if the Vikings can get their passing woes figured out, or whether the Giants can add to their misery.