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Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) celebrates with fans after catching a 15-yard touchdown pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Addressing reporters one day after Dallas branded Minnesota with its second and ugliest defeat of the 2022 season, veteran Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen vocalized what hordes of fans were thinking.  

"It's important to kind of get that bad taste out of our mouth and say, hey, that wasn't us," Thielen said. 

Minnesota turning around to play again Thursday was the silver lining of its 40-3 blowout loss Nov. 20. 

In a roundabout way, the Vikings had a more fulfilling Thanksgiving courtesy of the Cowboys.  

Minnesota redeemed itself with a highlight fest of a win over Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots in Week 12. The Vikes collected win No. 9, in 33-26 form, and Thielen rinsed that foul taste from his mouth.

Thielen also spat out an unsavory bite of dry turkey on national TV, which happened to be the third-funniest scene of his postgame interview alongside teammates Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson.

Jefferson passed on eating the turkey. A wise decision with a custom diamond teeth grill in his mouth. 

Cousins hilariously mentioned calling his dentist in Holland, Michigan, about getting on Jefferson’s level. 

The Star(s) of the Game chat with NBC’s Melissa Stark was as bubbly as Minnesota’s offensive execution.

Cousins finished one passing yard short of 300, completed 81.1% of his throws and offset an interception with three touchdowns through the air. Jefferson did the damn thing, posting a 9-139-1 receiving line. 

And Thielen – we’re not forgetting about the 32-year-old Thielen – played an equally important role, securing nine of 10 targets, including the go-ahead TD catch with 9:40 left in the game, for 61 yards.

The receptions and targets are new highs this year – and the most in a game since compiling 11 catches on 13 looks for 126 yards in Week 6 last season – for Thielen, who played 64 of 69 offensive snaps (93%).

If you paid attention to Thielen in the fallout of Minnesota’s Week 11 debacle, you might’ve seen his breakout performance coming. At the start of last week, during the same presser where he expressed what Vikings fans were feeling, Thielen used six words to describe his health heading into Week 12.

“Best I’ve felt in a while,” Thielen said. Best he’s played in a while, as well.

Other notes from Thursday’s snap counts:

– While skill players such as Thielen and tight end T.J. Hockenson are finding ways to thrive in Jefferson’s shadow, the role of third-year wide receiver K.J. Osborn in Minnesota’s passing attack is starting to ebb. On Thanksgiving night, Osborn received a season-low 57% snapshare – his lowest since Week 12 in 2021 (55%). Osborn was targeted twice on 39 offensive snaps and had one reception for eight yards, the fewest among seven Vikings pass catchers. In four contests dating to Nov. 6 (Hockenson’s first game with Minnesota), Osborn has struggled to stay involved, turning 18 targets into seven catches for 60 yards.

– In career start No. 1, Blake Brandel, a 2020 sixth-round draft choice out of Oregon State, lined up at left tackle on all 69 snaps and held his own against a Patriots pass rush that ranks in the top five in the NFL in pressures and sacks. His one blemish: Pats linebacker Josh Uce beat Brandel for a sack on the first play of the fourth quarter. That’s less damage than forecasted. In parts of two, and a full game now filling in for Christian Darrisaw – ruled out Thursday after leaving his last two games in concussion protocol – Brandel is attributed with allowing eight total pressures (one quarterback hit, three hurries and four sacks).

– Two weeks after making a key pass breakup in the end zone at Buffalo, cornerback Duke Shelley was inserted as a starter in Minnesota’s secondary – not by choice but by circumstance as Cameron Dantzler, Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth Jr. all were inactive Week 12 with injuries. Shelley, a 26-year-old former sixth-round draft pick of Chicago, was one of five Vikings defenders not to miss a single snap Thursday. Shelley led the defensive backfield with six tackles (four solo) and recorded his second PBU as a Viking. Overall, Shelley played OK – better than Pats QB Mac Jones’ line indicates. Jones was 6-for-7 for 87 yards targeting Shelley in coverage. The deceiving part: A chunk of those yards, about half, came on one catch.

– Shoutout to defensive tackle Ross Blacklock for logging the third sack of his career and first in a Vikings jersey. On the field Thursday for 17, or 31%, of Minnesota’s D snaps, Blacklock’s biggest impact occurred with 53 seconds left when he bottled Jones at New England’s 2 for a loss of nine yards. Blacklock’s sack put the Pats in an impossible position, down seven with no timeouts and 98 yards from the goal stripe.

– Vikings star edge Za’Darius Smith finished without a sack Thursday but the Patriots felt his presence. While playing a season-high 85% of the defensive snaps, Smith compiled three tackles, including one for a loss, and hurried Jones five separate times – marking the seventh instance this season where Smith has totaled five or more pressures in a game. Smith is credited with 61 on the year by Pro Football Focus.

Offense
PLAYER PLAYS (69) %
O'Neill 69 100%
Brandel 69 100%
Ingram 69 100%
Cleveland 69 100%
Bradbury 69 100%
Cousins 69 100%
Jefferson 67 97%
Thielen 64 93%
Cook 59 86%
Hockenson 55 80%
Osborn 39 57%
Mundt 37 54%
Ham 10 14%
Mattison 10 14%
Udoh 2 3%
Reagor 2 3%
Defense
PLAYER PLAYS (55) %
Kendricks 55 100%
Peterson 55 100%
Shelley 55 100%
Bynum 55 100%
Sullivan 55 100%
H. Smith 54 98%
Hicks 53 96%
Hunter 50 91%
Z. Smith 47 85%
Phillips 31 56%
Bullard 31 56%
Wonnum 25 45%
Blacklock 17 31%
Lynch 9 16%
Tonga 7 13%
Jones 5 9%
Metellus 1 2%

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