FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Vikings receiver Adam Thielen was so revved up about some potential Patriots skullduggery during the fourth quarter that an official had to hold him back from New England coach Bill Belichick on the sideline.
But after the game, Thielen walked back his behavior and took responsibility for the kerfuffle, which ended with Belichick shouting some nasty words at him as he was steered away by down judge Jerod Phillips.
"I've got to keep my cool," Thielen said in the Minnesota locker room after the 24-10 loss to the Patriots. "I've got a lot of respect for him and what he's done. I can't lose it like that, but I just thought it was interesting timing for a guy to go down where there was a close play that could have been reviewed."
At issue: Whether New England safety Patrick Chung faked an injury to give his coaches more time to see whether a fourth-down spot should be reviewed. Belichick did throw the challenge flag, but the spot and call of a first down was held up on review.
"I just thought the play was cheap. I let the emotions get the best of me," Thielen said. "It's not cheating. There's no rule against it."
Belichick's only comment on the interaction was when he was asked whether the interaction was just a couple of guys exchanging holiday greetings. "Yeah, pretty much," he said.
Cornerback Devin McCourty said the team sees Belichick's emotional side in practice every day. He said the star of the exchange was linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who got between their coach and the opposing player.
"He jumped in Thielen's face," McCourty said. "I love when we get in games like this, when it's going back and forth. I've talked to Thielen a bunch of times off the field, great guy. But everybody's out there battling."
Thielen said there are no hard feelings on his end.
And if Belichick decides to hold a grudge that's not going to worry him, either.
"He can think what he wants about me, and it doesn't really change how I'm going to play the game," Thielen said. "He can hate me all he wants. I'm still going to be the same person I am and try to go out and do my best."
The bigger problem for the Vikings (6-5-1) was Thielen's production.
The team's No. 1 receiver, who averaged more than eight catches and 100 yards in the first 11 games this season, had five catches for 28 yards and a touchdown on Sunday as the Patriots (9-3) double-teamed him for much of the day.
Kirk Cousins completed 32 of 44 passes to eight different receivers, many of them on dump-offs that resulted in just 201 yards passing.
"It really was what they were giving us," coach Mike Zimmer said. "Those are tough situations there. I have some thoughts on things, but I'm not going to share them."
The defeat prevented Minnesota from gaining ground on the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears, who lost 30-27 to the New York Giants earlier Sunday. Pending the outcome of Washington's game against Philadelphia on Monday night, the Vikings are a half-game out of playoff position.
"I feel fine about my team," Zimmer said. "I think we continue to learn a lot about ourselves. I think we got a good football team, we just got to play better than we did tonight. This one game won't define us. We've got four games left. The season is still in front of us, whatever we want to do."