Through three games last year, Vikings receiver Adam Thielen had 32 catches and 338 yards. Through three games this year, Thielen has only 11 catches and 173 yards.
The reduced output “doesn’t matter to me, as long as we win,” Thielen told PFT via phone after Sunday’s 34-14 win over the Raiders. Thielen explained that he continues to focus on all the little things that go with running routes and getting open, and that he simply tries to make the most out of every opportunity that comes his way.
“It’s definitely not harder,” Thielen said regarding the change in the focus from passing to running. “It’s just different.”
The very different focus on running — led by the incredible skills of third-year running back Dalvin Cook — makes it easier to pass via play action. Which is exactly what the Vikings did in scoring their first touchdown of the day. With quarterback Kirk Cousins faking the handoff and rolling left, Thielen popped wide open. So open that it almost became a problem.
Thielen said it’s actually harder to catch a pass when he’s that open than when he’s blanketed, because there’s a chance he’ll loose his focus when he takes it for granted.
He made the catch. And he scored again on a short running play at the goal line, punctuated with a spike so aggressive that it almost seemed like he was sending a message. Was he?
“No,” Thielen said. “I just didn’t know what else to do.”
The Vikings have shown they know what to do to win games: Combine old-school offense with old-school defense. It was a fitting combination on the day they recognized the ultra-old-school 1969 Vikings, who won the last NFL championship before the merger.