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Vikings' Adam Thielen After Bears Loss: 'Have to Be Able to Hit the Deep Balls'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistSeptember 30, 2019

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) warms up before the start of an NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

It's probably not good when your star receiver's general critique of the offense could be directed at either the head coach or the starting quarterback.

Following the Minnesota Vikings' 16-6 defeat to the Chicago Bears on Sunday, Adam Thielen expressed his frustration with a unit that gained only 222 yards.

"At some point, you're not going to be able to run the ball for 180 yards, even with the best running back in the NFL," Thielen said, per The Athletic's Chad Graff. "That's when you have to be able to throw the ball. ... You have to be able to hit the deep balls."

Kirk Cousins was supposed to be the piece that put the Vikings over the top when they signed him to a three-year, $84 million contract. The 2016 Pro Bowler proceeded to have a season that he himself admitted fell below expectations in 2018.

Unfortunately for the Vikings, 2019 is proving to be more of the same. Through four games, he has thrown for 735 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He's also averaging 7.4 yards per attempt, which is on pace to be the third-lowest of his career.

One drive in particular highlighted Minnesota's issues. Trailing by 10 points with 2:33 left in the game, Cousins threw four passes that gained five total yards as the Vikings gave the ball back to the Bears.

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One could read Thielen's comments as an indictment of Cousins.

Of course, one could make an equally plausible argument he had head coach Mike Zimmer in mind when he said what was on his mind.

Courtney Cronin @CourtneyRCronin

Zimmer didn't offer much insight from his perspective about why Cousins continues to struggle in big games, especially the ones on the road: "I don't know. You'd have to ask him."

Jim Owczarski @JimOwczarski

I get Mike Zimmer wanting to emphasize the run ... and Cousins is average at best ... but this passing offense has totally been neutered ...

Myron Medcalf @MedcalfByESPN

The Vikings invested a lot of money into their QB position after making a run to the NFC title game in 2017 and right now, they’re the worst team in their division. Yeah, you gotta fire people soon if this continues, starting with Zimmer.

Cousins attempted 36 passes Sunday, in large part because the Vikings had no other choice with the Bears stuffing the run. He had averaged 21 attempts through the first three weeks, and FiveThirtyEight's Michael Salfino noted how the firing of offensive coordinator John DeFilippo last December coincided with a larger emphasis on the running game.

For better or worse, it's on Zimmer to get the most out of Cousins, and that's not happening right now.

Something has to give, and Cousins' $31 million cap number for 2020 makes it a lot more likely Zimmer is the odd man out if the front office wants to shake things up.

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