MINNEAPOLIS — Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins offered a mea culpa to receiver Adam Thielen after he failed to connect with his teammate on a handful of plays during Minnesota’s 16-6 loss at Chicago in Week 4.
Thielen was a guest on Cousins’ weekly show “Under Center with Kirk Cousins” that airs on KFAN, the team’s flagship radio station. Moderated by Minnesota Hall of Fame broadcaster Mark Rosen, Cousins was asked whether he took offense to the comments Thielen made following the loss about needing to complete deep-ball passes and execute plays in the passing game when the Vikings aren’t able to run the ball successfully.
“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.”
The play that stood out most to Cousins was a pass he overthrew to Thielen on third-and-10 near the end of the first quarter. The receiver created separation from his defender and outstretched his arms for a ball that would’ve resulted in a touchdown had the throw been completed.
“He’s shown — No. 19’s shown — that he will make that play, and he’ll probably finish that play in the end zone and pull away from the defender,” Cousins said. “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. The reality was I didn’t, we didn’t, and that’s where I think you’re frustrated after a game, and you’re looking to improve going into the next week.”
Thielen clarified his postgame comments on KFAN on Tuesday and said he was speaking in a broad sense — not critiquing Cousins or playcalling — when asked after the loss about finding other ways to generate offense when the team’s run-first approach isn’t working.
“First of all, I think it’s interesting how media or fans take things that you say and make it what they want it to be,” Thielen said. “I don’t think I could say anything more generic that any offense would say. You can’t be one-dimensional in this league. It’s very, very, very difficult to win. If you listen to defensive coordinators talk, they want to make the offense one-dimensional, and that’s how they want to win.
“You have to hit deep balls, No. 1, because otherwise corners sit on you. You have to be able to run the football when you need to, and you have to be able to throw the football because like Kirk said, some games are going to dictate that you have to throw the ball to win, some games are going to dictate that you have to run the ball to win, and it doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you are doing the things you need to do to win. It was as general as I could’ve got, but obviously people will find a way to twist it and make controversy and try to split your team. We’re not going to let that happen.”
Thielen finished with two catches for 6 yards, his lowest output since the 2015 season.
Although Cousins has been criticized for up-and-down play through Minnesota’s first four games, especially after he routinely left his receivers open downfield and settled for checkdown plays in Chicago, the quarterback brought his focus back to igniting the passing game when the Vikings face the New York Giants on the road in Week 5.
“I look forward to giving him and Stefon [Diggs] more opportunities in the weeks ahead,” Cousins said.