On Monday morning, roughly 12 hours after the Vikings’ 30-20 loss to the New Orleans Saints, wide receiver Adam Thielen still hadn’t watched video of the play that changed the game on Sunday night.
Nor did he have any plans to do so.
“I haven’t watched it — probably won’t watch it; maybe I will,” Thielen said of his fumble in the second quarter Sunday night. “I know what I did. Every other time I get in traffic, I put it high and tight, close to my body. For some reason, that time, when I was in traffic, I was trying to split them and use my speed, rather than just tucking the ball and being safe with it.”
Thielen’s fumble, which came on the Saints’ 18, cost the Vikings a chance to take a 10-point lead before halftime. Instead, the Saints scored a touchdown two plays after Marshon Lattimore’s 54-yard return of the fumble, taking a four-point lead they would eventually extend to 14 after P.J. Williams’ 45-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The two plays loomed large in the loss, as turnovers have every time the Vikings haven’t won this season. In Mike Zimmer’s first four years as the Vikings’ head coach, the team didn’t have more than six games in a season where it finished with a negative turnover margin. It’s had four already this season — and is 0-3-1 in those games.
“If you look at the turnovers throughout the course of the year, the times we’ve won the turnover battle, we’ve won,” Zimmer said.
Thielen’s fumble — his first since Week 6 last season — came as he caught a wide receiver screen and tried to split Williams and Alex Anzalone, getting the ball knocked out of his hands as he leaned forward.
“A lot of times, it does happen when you’re trying to get the extra yard, when you’re trying to stretch the ball out,” Thielen said. “You’re trying to split guys and just run as fast as you can, rather than worrying about just putting two hands on the ball and taking it. It’s a good learning moment for me, for sure. Obviously, I should have known that already; it’s happened before in my career.
“I think it was a little bit of a lack of concentration and situational awareness. Where we were, with the time and the clock, take the hit, get down and live to play another day.”
Both Thielen and fellow wide receiver Stefon Diggs shouldered the blame for the Vikings’ turnovers after the game; Diggs said he was trying to give Cousins an easy throw while the quarterback was rolling to his right, sitting down in coverage rather than continuing his route as Cousins threw to the spot where he expected Diggs to be.
On Monday, Zimmer said he told players to stop blaming themselves for mistakes publicly.
“We have scramble rules that we do and different things,” Zimmer said. “Like I told them in the meeting today, the receivers need to stop saying that stuff because one person doesn’t lose a game, one person doesn’t win a game.
“We win around here as a team, we lose around here as a team. Guys make mistakes, miscommunication; whatever you want to call it, it happens. I will never put anyone of those one things on one player ever. We talk about there’s 22 guys on the field for 150 plays in the game. Guys are going to make mistakes; that’s what it is. The team that makes the least amount of mistakes wins, but no one person loses the game.”
When asked if he was referring to Diggs’ postgame comments taking the blame for the interception, Zimmer said, “I don’t know.”
In any case, the Vikings — who are 30-6 under Zimmer when they’ve won the turnover battle — will try to fix things Sunday against a Lions team that has just six takeaways for the season.
“I think we had it going, execution-wise, scheme-wise, and all that,” Thielen said. “Maybe it was just a lack of concentration, or being too relaxed, or what have you. That’s the frustrating part: you know how many times you’ve done it a different way, or the right way, and the one time you slip up, it costs you.”