By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
FOXBORO (CBS) — The Patriots’ 24-10 victory over the Vikings was, by and large, an uneventful affair — save for one tense moment on the sideline.
It came with under 10 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, with the Patriots leading by 14 points. Latavius Murray ran up the middle on a fourth-and-1 and was stood up by the Patriots’ defensive line. He appeared to have been short of the line to gain, but the officials on the field ruled that Murray picked up the first down.
With the Patriots considering a challenge on the play, veteran safety Patrick Chung hit the turf with an injury. That stopped the clock, and Bill Belichick then did decide to throw his red challenge flag.
That sequence of events clearly irked Vikings receiver Adam Thielen, who fired off some choice words toward the Patriots sideline. Belichick didn’t take kindly to the commentary from the opponent, and responded with some words that can’t be repeated on television.
The Patriots lost the challenge, but the Vikings were stopped on a fourth-and-11 later that same drive to turn the football over on downs.
After the game, Thielen said he believed Chung was likely faking the injury in order to give his coaching staff more time to watch replays before making the decision to challenge.
“I just thought the play was cheap. I wasn’t directing it towards [Belichick]. I just thought the play was cheap,” Thielen said in the Gillette Stadium visitors’ locker room. “But like I said, I let my emotions get the best of me, because it’s a smart football play. If you are in that situation, why not? It’s not cheating, because there’s no rule against it, from a guy going down. I don’t know if he was hurt or not; he might’ve been hurt. That’s fine. It is what it is. But like I said, just interesting timing for a guy to go down when it’s a close play.”
Thielen did regret the outburst.
“Um, yeah, obviously I gotta keep my cool,” Thielen said. “You know, I’ve got a lot of respect for him and what he’s done. I can’t lose [my temper] like that. I just thought it was interesting timing for a guy to go down, when it was a close play that could have been reviewed. So for me, I just lost my emotions.”
Thielen also said he won’t hold a grudge toward Belichick for the words the coach hurled at him.
“No offense taken. It’s football. There’s emotions,” Thielen said. “He can think what he wants to think about me, and it doesn’t really change how I’m going to play the game. So he can hate me all he wants, and I’m still going to be the same person I am. I’m gonna try to go out and do my best, and I’m gonna try to compete every play.”
Outside of the sideline spat, Thielen was a significant story in this game for his lack of production. Thielen entered the game averaging 8.5 receptions and 103.5 receiving yards per game, but he was only able to catch five passes for 28 yards against the Patriots. He did score the Vikings’ lone touchdown, but the Patriots’ defense clearly put an emphasis on limiting the dangerous receiver on this day.
The Patriots held Kirk Cousins to just 201 passing yards and one touchdown, while picking him off twice and sacking him twice as well.
For his part, Belichick was concise on the topic. The coach was asked if it was just a case of two people exchanging holiday greetings.
“Yeah, pretty much,” Belichick said.